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Posts Tagged ‘ALMS’

Update and Livestream of the WEC 6 hours of Spa!

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Sorry for the recent inactivity folks. I have been on the move and my colleague has been quite busy lately. We haven’t forgot you and we are making the appropriate preparations to revamp this site and the podcast! In the meantime you absolutely can not miss the racing action going on this weekend whether it be the World Touring Car Championship, World Rally Championship, World Endurance Championship, DTM, etc!

Many of these races will be available for viewing online after the race is done airing live.  However, the WEC have a livestream going on for the 6 hours of Spa! A race that is considered the final proving ground for the teams and drivers prior to the years biggest event at the 24 hours of LeMans!

Commentary by the fantastic team over at Radio LeMans

The livestream can be found here.

Why Toyota Motorsport Has My Support For The 2013 World Endurance Championship

It is no secret that Nick and I differ when it comes to favorites in the WEC/ALMS/ELMS, especially when it comes to the two major works teams in the LMP1 classification. While Nick is a big Audi fan I can’t help but cheer on Toyota. I can’t say much for their struggles in F1, but I certainly enjoy their rich history in sports car racing, rally racing, and car culture in general. I mean who can forget their iconic racing machines throughout the 1990s such as the Toyota Castrol Team TOM’S Supra or the WRC Celica GT-Four ST 165, 185, and 205?

When it comes to motor sports, Toyota often supports teams using their hardware within various racing categories. However, they do launch a full works campaign every once in a while and whether they win or lose, they always seem to create something quite unique. It is no secret that Toyota have a chance of winning Le Mans this year and winning the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship. This will not be easy for them as Audi will provide fierce competition every step of the way. Audi has been insanely popular in the sports car world and has certainly emanated success on multiple platforms when it comes to endurance racing. They command a mighty fanbase thanks to their excellent marketing, product, race wins, and the always fantastic Truth in 24 documentaries.

However, while many still remember the blunders of Toyota in the world of F1, I still think this is a company and motorsport team well worth your time and support for various yet not so obvious reasons.

What’s so special about Toyota?
I have to admit I wasn’t always into racing or cars. Growing up I was obsessed with aircraft and cars simply did not impress me all that much. This changed when I encountered the second generation Toyota MR2. This car spoke volumes to me in terms of it’s unique aesthetic and mid engine placement. It was a car that quickly became my first love in the realm of affordable sports cars. It may have not been the fastest, but it was certainly unique and a testament of Toyota’s willingness to push new boundaries.

First love

First love

I must also confess that my interest in the MR2 led me to discover the insanely popular Japanese anime, manga, and arcade racer series Initial D. A series that I will always hold close in one way or another as it helped propel my interest in international racing. Initial D featured many characters and cars but the real protagonist of the story was another iconic Toyota. Namely, the AE86 Toyota Sprinter Trueno. A true underdog of a car that achieved monumental results in the common driver’s racing world. While production of this car ended in the late 80s, it still lives on in the world of performance cars and was instrumental in granting the title of “Drift King” to Keiichi Tsuchiya. Once again, it wasn’t the fastest but it had such a unique feel to it that it is no surprise it became such a cult classic. The AE86, in my mind, will forever be one of Toyota’s greatest grassroot achievements.

The reason why I mention the MR2 and the AE86 is because they are testaments to a unique philosophy that Toyota presents when it comes to their performance cars. They go off the beaten path and attempt to blaze their own trail to success. It came as no surprise when I found out that Toyota see it from this perspective as well. In fact, they try to spread this type of philosophy into areas beyond car design and production. In 2001, they released  “The Toyota Way”, which was essentially a set of guiding principles for the management side of their manufacturing operations. These principles were able to translate into a very practical set of management methods that ended up revolutionizing how companies across the world approached their own methodology. The Toyota Way keeps it short and simple: continuous improvement, and respect for people.  While the former is almost a given for companies, the latter isn’t always there.

This is what really draws me in with Toyota. Their respect for people and how it is reflected through their car design. This isn’t just because their cars are unique, but because they are able to share this uniqueness (for lack of a better term) by connecting with the everyday driver. Don’t get me wrong, Audi creates wonderful cars, but these cars aren’t exactly affordable and they can be difficult to relate to. Toyota helped pull me into racing as a whole because they were able to give me this sense of inclusion by creating unique car designs at an affordable price. Whenever I drove or rode either of these cars I felt that I could appreciate the countless hours and effort that went into it’s design. In a way, it was a pragmatic start to a very existential feeling. It wasn’t just the connection between man and machine, but the fact that I could relate this connection to others around me in a more streamlined fashion. These cars were highly visible and easily accessible.

The real protagonist of Initial D, The iconic AE86 Toyota Sprinter Trueno

The real protagonist of Initial D, The iconic AE86 Toyota Sprinter Trueno

Toyota Returns in Style
Toyota returned to the premier sports car racing stage as an official works team in 2012 with their hybrid TS030. Designed by Toyota Motorsport GmbH, the TS030 was viewed upon as an exciting design that could change the sports car racing scene altogether.  However, the established champions at Audi debuted their own diesel hybrid in the equally impressive R18 e-tron Quattro. The challenge became greater for Toyota at this point,  since the advantage of having a hybrid car was seemingly equalized by Audi’s own hybrid design. So it came down to Audi’s flywheel based hybrid all wheel drive system vs Toyota’s late decision to have their system deliver the power to the rear via the use of a super capacitor. Once again the 24 hours of Le Mans would be the stage for a truly epic battle between two competing automotive technologies. A type of battle that had been missing from the international spectacle for a few years.

Despite this hype, a lot of folks remained skeptical on just what the TS030 could do. The general consensus was that 2012 would be a year of teething and thus minimal results for the hybrid prototype. Even Toyota had to admit that they were not expecting themselves to be competitive for some time, as their main priority was on further developing the THS-R design. This type of negative thinking began to escalate to new heights when Toyota had wrecked their car at Spa and was unable to compete due to supply related issues. As a result, they had very little time for testing and had to make a lot of last minute preparations for  the upcoming 24 hour main event at Le Mans, France.

Despite these disadvantages, the team put their heart and soul into a mighty effort and were able to impress at Le Mans and stay strong throughout the rest of the season. The debut 2012 season of the FIA World Endurance Championship ended up being one of success for the team as they scored 3 wins and showed strong pace at Le Mans. In a very real sense, ‘The Toyota Way’ and it’s philosophical tenet of continuous improvement was applying the talk to the walk.

2013 and Beyond
Fast forward to 2013 and Toyota has shown that it is definitely prepared for the challenges that lay ahead in order to stand at the top of the podium. The TS030 is now a seasoned veteran. The drivers, crew, and engineers now command a greater understanding of this truly impressive machine. While I know there are many who may disagree with me, I sincerely believe they can bust the monopoly that Audi has on the 24 hours of Le Mans and win the WEC championship altogether. This is definitely their year to shine, provided they can accomplish this monumental task. They have a strong driver lineup along with a highly motivated and experienced team that know what it takes to win. Plus the facility at Toyota Motorsport GmbH is just downright impressive. Seriously, checking this place out is well worth your time.

Much like their cars in the past, Toyota have once again entered the scene with a truly unique and evolving design.

Much like their cars in the past, Toyota have once again entered the scene with a truly unique and evolving design.

The opening chapters of the story that is the World Endurance Championship will be forever marked by this clash of the automotive titans.  This mark will certainly not remain dormant in the world of motor sport, for it will extend beyond that in the car market as a whole. Assuming that Toyota will stay consistent with it’s history of providing easy access to their sports car market, then the next unique performance road car that Toyota designs will rest on the success of this hybrid machine. A success that we can all have the opportunity to share in!

When I review what this team is bringing to the fold I am finding that all the expectations for a major sports car endurance team on my checklist are fulfilled. Innovative technology? Check.  Proven facility/personnel ? Check.  Impressive philosophy? Check.  Great drivers? Check.

It wasn’t just the checklist that convinced me to support this team’s effort  nor was it just down to all the reasoning I gave earlier in this article. At the end of the day, it was how Hisatake Murata was able to sum it all up in the video above. At the 3:32 mark, the Project General Manager said the following:

We perfected this hybrid system in a joint operation with the HV Advanced Development Department Team at our Headquarters. In reality, we are now engaged in a project to develop a car destined to be the forerunner of a road car that will be marketed some time in the future.

I love how he put that. This isn’t a car designed for show nor is it merely designed to just win races as a one trick pony. This car has a freaking destiny to fulfill.

Now that is something I can cheer for.

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