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Toyota announced last Friday that it will be competing in the 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship with its new gasoline-electric hybrid, the LMP1.  One highlight of the championship is the 80th running of the Le Mans 24 Hour race, which takes places June 16 and 17 next year.

Toyota Motorsport GmbH (TMG is currently developing the prototype race car’s chassis, while Toyota in Japan is developing the hybrid gas powertrain. Recently, the company has been working on an electric racecar prototype, which set a new electric-car record – 7 minutes and 48 seconds – at the 13-mile track in Nurburgring, Germany.

Toyota last competed as a manufacturer at Le Mans in 1999 with the GT-One.  The GT-One was able to set a new race lap record; however, in the final hour of the race, the tire punctured.  Since then, TMG has focused on Formula 1 racing, but withdrew in 2009.

Other, smaller racing teams have tried racing with hybrid vehicles, but saw little success.  While Toyota has already established itself as a leader in hybrid technology with the Prius, the company wants to use this opportunity to further build up its reputation in hybrid technology.

“We want to write a new page in the history of the Le Mans 24 hours, as well as the FIA World Endurance Championship, through our use of hybrid technology,” said Tadashi Yamahina, senior managing officer at Toyota and chairman of TMG.

Le Mans 24 Hour race is a French sports car endurance race held in Le Mans, France.  The first race was held in 1923, making it the oldest sports car endurance race in the world.  Cars must run for 24 hours straight without sustaining mechanical damage.  The circuit consists of both public roads and a permanent track and is currently 8.469 miles in length.  Drivers may drive for durations at long as two hours before stopping at the pit to change drivers.   Current regulations state that 3 drivers must share each racing vehicle.

The LMP1-based car will come out in early 2012 for pre-season testing.

Tags : hybridLe MansLMP1racingtoyota
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