Automakers at Toyota and Audi have been hard at work updating their top-spec racers in an effort to catch up to Porsche in the world of motorsports with the ultimate stakes being the finish line at Le Mans and beyond.
Last year marked a time where Porsche’s 919 Hybrid program dominated the 24 hours at Le Mans. It marked Porsche’s record-extending 17th overall win. Not content to be left in the dust, Toyota and Audi, have begun investing considerable resources just to keep up.
Sadly neither auto giant has been able to as of yet match speeds with the electric-assisted V4 racers.
On the plus side of things: both of their respective months of tweaking and tuning have left them both with something radically different from what they began with.
Audi may be staying with their favored R18 base, which they’ve been running since 2011, however this time around they have opted to radically modify is and the result has been arguably one of their wildest-looking racers, possibly in automotive history outside of maybe Nissan’s ill-fated GT-R LM.
On the other hand, Toyota has decided to go with a different car all together. What they have done is build a brand new car from scratch. This is their fifth generation of TS-line prototype (if you want to get technical, it’s their third since their 2012 return to high class racing) and they call it the TS050.
It seems Porsche will still lead overall in combined times as shown in the FIA World Endurance Championship preseason test at the Paul Ricard track. And yet both Toyota and Audi insist that their work will pay off for the season. In fact when the lone TS050 entered found itself third on the final timing chart, it was a mere 8/10ths of a second off the fastest Porsche and significantly quicker than last season’s often-struggling variant of the TS040.
Meanwhile Audi’s R18, found itself 1.3 seconds behind, which is an achievement in and of itself since that makes a total of three seconds shaved off of the nearest non-factory LMP1 racer. Safe to say, those speeds are really close, but with Toyota traditionally running just two cars at Le Mans and both Porsche and Audi committed to scaling back to two for the 24 hour classic as well the idea is now that durability becomes more of a concern than ever.
If Toyota and Audi keep up this pace in the coming months, the 919 Hybrids will have to either be bulletproof or find some new speed of their own if they want to win again. They are literally gunning for Porsche’s top spot.
In terms of the other racing classes, a Signatech-Alpine ended up leading the way in LMP2 in a shiny new A460 coupe, while at the same time the Strakka Racing ended up finishing 2/1000s of a second slower in second with their roofless, and unfortunately much older Gibson 015S. AF Corse lead the GT competitors with a new Ferrari 488 GTE, while Chip Ganassi Racing’s Ford GTs would follow close behind.