Because saying something in capital letters on the web is like shouting it, and shouting means you're serious, Toyota has named its 2012 Le Mans prototype entry the TS030 HYBRID. Yep, it's a HYBRID.
So what does hybrid mean in Toyota Motorsports parlance? It means serious business: a 3.4-liter V-8 engine paired to a capacitor-storage system developed by team partner Nisshinbo. Front and rear motors are currently being tested from Aisin and Denso. Racing regulations limit power recovery for hybrid systems to 500 kilojoules (kJ) between braking zones and that power can only be deployed to two wheels.
Whether it will generate enough power, and whether the chassis will deliver enough performance, to justify the shouting remains to be seen. We may have a long wait to find out, however: Toyota plans to enter two of the TS030s at Le Mans in June, but hasn't confirmed whether it will participate in any other races.
There may be a bit of a learning curve for the team, as Toyota hasn't been directly involved in Le Mans since the 1990s. On the other hand, Toyota's Motorsports division has been an active supplier, consultant, and engineering resource for many forms of racing, including F1 in the intervening years.
Toyota's project leader for the hybrid aspect of the car, Hisatake Murata, is confident of the car's success. "Toyota has been working on hybrid systems for motorsport for several years, during which time we have made huge progress," said Murata. "Now we feel ready to bring our technology to the ultimate motorsport test: the Le Mans 24 Hours."
Drivers Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre, and Kazuki Nakajima are already confirmed as drivers of one car. Drivers for the second car are still being finalized. Andrea Caldarelli will serve as a junior driver for the team.