Many think Toyota retired from endurance racing too soon. Now they plan to return, and we're excited.
For endurance racing enthusiasts, the 1999 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is a particularly memorable one. It was the year that Peter Dumbreck famously became airborne in his CLR, causing Mercedes-Benz to once again withdraw from Le Mans. It was Audi's first year at La Sarthe, but it was also the year that one of Toyota's excellent GT-One prototype racers very nearly became the second Japanese car to ever score a win.
A flat tire right near the end of the race knocked Toyota out of first, but it was believed by many that Toyota's machine was in fact superior to the BMW that actually won. Toyota hasn't raced at Le Mans since, but they have now announced that they will return for 2012, as part of the FIA World Endurance Championship. Toyota Motorsport GmbH, based out of Germany, is developing an LMP1 car with a hybrid drivetrain for use in the championship. A hybrid is a bold move in a series utterly dominated by diesel cars, and where no hybrid LMP1 prototype has yet made it all the way through the 24 hour race.
Bold though it may be, Porsche is reported to have similar plans for 2014, so we can expect to see some serious money being put into hybrid sports car development in the near future. We're looking forward to seeing how this turns out.