Toyota GR010 Hybrid #7 – Spark

GR010 #7
2021 Toyota GR010 Hybrid #7
Pilots: M. Conway, K. Kobayashi, J. M. López
Team: Toyota Gazoo Racing
Race: 1st overall (LMH class) at Le Mans in 2021
Spark - 43LM21 (resin)

Published 05/26/23

Toyota’s domination at Le Mans began in 2018. Their TS050 effectively had no match in LMP1, so it was a Toyota fest from 2018 to 2020. However, for 2021 FIA and ACO wanted to change the sauce. And that change came through the new Hypercar class. You see, the LMP1 class was absurdly expensive, even to the big dogs (like Porsche and Audi). With that, all the big manufacturers bailed from LMP1, with the exception of Toyota. Consequently, LMP1 became a b-o-r-i-n-g one car race. WEC implemented the new hypercar class in September of 2020, allowing much more competition in prototype racing. That’s because manufacturers now had two options. They could design a prototype in the style of a hypercar from the ground up. Or they could develop a race car based on a road-going hypercar or supercar (producing at least 20 units). 

GR010 #7
The idea behind the new hypercar class was to make prototype racing cheaper and popular again.

Furthermore, FIA divided the new class in two: Le Mans Hypercar (LMH) and Le Mans Daytona Hybrid (LMDh). LMH cars are exclusively for Le Mans (WEC) while LMDh are for Le Mans and Daytona (IMSA). That means that FINALLY a manufacturer can have the same car competing both in the WEC and IMSA series. What separates both sub-classes is how manufacturers make the car. For LMDh, the backbone of the car (everything minus the ICE, body and hybrid system) comes from the same suppliers. That would be either from Dallara, Multimatic, Ligier or Oreca. Conversely, a LMH manufacturer has more freedom in choosing parts. However, the manufacturer has to foot the bill for development costs. Also, a hybrid system is optional for LMH, while all LMDh cars have to use the same “spec” system. To keep things fair, there will be a Balance of Performance (BoP) formula for the sub-classes.

You don’t mess with a winning design, so the GR010 is VERY similar to the TS050.

Obviously, in early 2020 Toyota began their Hypercar program. Their new car was the GR010 Hybrid, and it was ready in October 2020. The chassis was a carbon fiber and aluminum honeycomb monocoque with an independent double wishbone and push rod suspension system. The power train for the GR010 was a hybrid system. Powering the rear wheels was a 3500 cm³ twin-turbo V6, while the front wheels had electric motors. That translated to 500 kW (671 hp) from the ICE + 200 kW (268 hp) from the electric motors. The GR010’s race debut was at Spa, on May 1st 2021, coming in first and third. Next was Monza, in July, and Toyota came first again. And then the big one, Le Mans, in August. GR010 #7 came in first, followed two laps behind by car #8. The first 24 Hours of Le Mans of the new Hypercar era and Toyota won.

Le Mans 2021 was quite predictable for Toyota, with (very?) light competition.

Though Toyota achieved smashing results, we have to remember that competition was pretty light. Standing up against them were only two teams. One was Glickenhaus, almost a garagista compared to the financial might of Toyota, yet with a LMH car. Alpine was also there, though using a grandfathered A480 LMP1 car. Therefore, with light competition the Le Mans result was predictable (as was 2021 and 2022 🤨). However, I’m certain the story will be different in 2023. With all the new manufacturers in Hypercar, things will definitively change. In scale, however, the GR010 #7 is very exciting. The first Hypercar winner is certainly a must-have. And fortuitously, Spark did a great job on the model, and it truly looks the part. Even if the race was a tad predictable, I’m VERY glad to have the GR010 #7 in the W-143 Garage.

PS: The distinctions between LMH and LMDh are quite confusing. If you want to understand a little bit more, I recommend that you look here, here and here.

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