According to the Japanese Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper Toyota Motors is planning a return to the Le Mans 24 Hours in the near future. The last time Toyota raced at Le Mans was back in 1999 with the Toyota GT-One, back then the Toyota Team Europe entered GT-One finished in second place behind the BMW V12 LMR but ahead of two Audi Sport Team Joest entered Audi R8R.
For the next Le Mans attack Toyota plans to bring a hybrid vehicle with only one aim, winning the Le Mans 24 Hours for the first time. In the US Toyota has already launched its hybrid car Prius with a lot of success, and the company hopes to get Europe interested in its environmental technology as well.
“Audi proved the superiority of the next generation diesel engine at Le Mans. Toyota wants to do the same with the hybrid,” an unnamed Toyota official told the newspaper.
Before Toyota will hit the Mulsanne Straight a lot of development will have to be done as hybrid cells are still quite heavy and not as efficient as a diesel at the moment. So before beating the Audi R10s and Peugeot 908s the Toyota engineers will have to reduce the weight of the vehicle and increase its efficiency.
Nevertheless the announcement is a good sign for the sportscar world as it seems that yet another major manufacturer is starting to shift its focus on endurance racing.
Plans for a return to Le Mans in 2010 do exist, but Toyota can not confirm this date for its return yet.
The article in the Yomiuri Shimbun has more Toyota quotes:
Dozens of Toyota employees from its motor sports and hybrid vehicle development divisions have formed a team to develop racing cars for Le Mans.
Toyota officials say they are confident in taking on the challenge of the Le Mans race, saying that the company aims to win the race at its first renewed attempt.
“There are a number of uncertain factors such as our [future] results in F-1 that might affect our ability to meet the challenge,” a Toyota executive said. “But our target is definitely Le Mans.”