Gentlemen, start your engines, Toyota’s hybrid 2012

An image of Toyota's hybrid for Le Mans 24 Hours in 2012

TOKYO (majirox news) — Toyota has not been seen in high profile racing since the end of 2009, when it pulled the plug on Formula 1 racing. That year, the motor company booked a net loss of 436.9 billion yen ( $4.4 billion), which was its first annual net loss since 1950.

Toyota must sell cars, and the most efficient marketing tool is racing. The bottom line is that racing sells cars and green technology.

The Japanese giant has combined the two and announced its return to the most prestigious endurance race in the world, Le Mans 24 Hours race, with an earth friendly, hybrid race-car.

“Toyota has entered Le Mans before, but by using our hybrid technology, this time will be a completely new challenge,” said Motor Corporation senior managing officer and Toyota Motorsport chairman Tadashi Yamashina in a press release. “We want to write a new chapter in the history of the Le Mans 24 Hours, as in the FIA World Endurance Championship, through our use of hybrid technology.”

Le Mans 24 Hours is the grand daddy of endurance racing. It has been held annually since 1923, near the town of Le Mans, France. This race emphasizes endurance, reliability, and strategy over pure speed. The race involves complex pit strategy and drivers who must endure stints of more than two hours behind the wheel before another teammate takes over driving duties.

Toyota has raced Le Mans before, but never won. After a 13-year hiatus, they are preparing to race again in 2012.

For many race fans, it was a sad day when Toyota dropped out of Formula 1, and they may have been out of the race scene for too long, however, the company is ready to lay out the cash for some time in the spotlight.

Adding to the excitement, the hybrid LMP1 and possibly the extraordinary Lexus LFA will race in a few 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship events, so, hopefully we can enjoy some good racing along with some of the top of the podium finishes.

The LMP1 will be a collaborative effort, with Toyota Motorsport GmbH in Germany designing the chassis, and a hybrid gas powertrain engineered by Toyota engineers in Japan.

In a press release, Toyota said that the new race team would be organized out of Toyota Motorsport’s Cologne headquarters, and will be competing in the 80th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours (June 16 and 17, 2011).

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