It’s official. Toyota has announced its intention to compete in the 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship, the highlight of which is the 80th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans taking place on June 16 and 17 of next year.
The Japanese automaker will compete with a new gasoline-electric hybrid LMP1 prototype race car, currently under development by Toyota Motorsport GmbH (TMG) based in Cologne, Germany.
TMG is the automaker’s motorsports division, previously responsible for its Formula 1 program but more recently its electric race car development
Participation at Le Mans will be one of a number of races Toyota proposes to enter in the 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship.
The new team will be based at TMG’s Cologne headquarters and it's expected that the new race car will be rolled out early in 2012 for extensive pre-season testing.
You may recall that Toyota last competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans as a manufacturer in the late 1990s racing the GT-One, a car which famously established a new race lap record in 1999 but tragically suffered a tire puncture that same year in the final hour of the race.
Toyota hopes to learn from competing in endurance racing so that it can enhance its production car technology, which means that we could be seeing a new generation of hybrid sports cars from the Japanese automaker in the not too distant future.
The next couple of years of Le Mans racing is about to get even more exciting, with Porsche already confirmed
for a 2014 start, and Bentley
and Lexus rumored to be joining as well.
Stay tuned for an update.