Much to the embarrassment of the Germans, Toyota Motorsport in Cologne will take the trip down to the Nürburgring this weekend – the first WEC (World Endurance Cup) race in Germany since 1991, when the series was called the World Sportscar Championship.
This weekend’s race marks a return to race action for the TS040 Hybrids after a 10-week break since the Le Mans 24 Hours, when Toyota finished sixth and eighth, after a thorough and embarrassing thrashing from Porsche and Audi.
Porsche is entering two of its Porsche 919 Hybrids in the fiercest LMP1 (class one Le Mans Prototypes). Powered by a downsized two-liter V4-cylinder turbo charged gas engine and an electric motor, which is fed by two energy recovery systems (brake energy from the front axle and exhaust energy). This unique and arguably ground-braking powertrain temporarily turns the 919 into a four-wheel drive car with ~1,000 horsepower of performance. The board of Porsche AG has decided to extend the Le Mans prototype program until the end of the 2018 season.
After two six-hour races, at Silverstone (GB) and Spa (BE), the Porsche 919 Hybrid went on to win the Le Mans 24 Hours on June 14th. It was the 17th overall victory for Porsche at this famous and brutal race; no other brand has such a tally. For the winning drivers – Earl Bamber (NZ), Nico Hülkenberg (DE) and Nick Tandy (GB) – Le Mans was the last race in a 919 at least for this season because Porsche doesn’t enter a third prototype in the remaining rounds of the ruinously expensive World Championship.
World Champion drivers for Toyota – Anthony Davidson and Sébastien Buemi partner Kazuki Nakajima in the #1 are looking for a second podium finish of the season. The #2 line-up of Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin and Mike Conway are looking for their first top-three of the year.
Toyota says it prepared for the race with a two-day test at the Nürburgring in July, which gave the team a chance to evaluate set-up and tire choices while allowing drivers Anthony, Sébastien and Alex to reacquaint themselves with the track.
Previously known as the Nürburgring 1,000km, the race has a long history, beginning in 1953. The Nordschleife layout was used until 1984 and an endurance prototype still holds the outright lap record around the 20km track, known as the ‘Green Hell’.
This weekend’s race will take place on the shorter Grand Prix lay-out which has 16 turns over its 5.148km and is relatively narrow, making it challenging for LMP1 drivers to cope with the slower LMP2 and GT cars – the perennial problem in Le Mans racing.