Toyota is well known as the world's largest producer of hybrid passenger cars and utility vehicles, which are renowned primarily for their fuel economy.
But there's another side to that technology that makes it well suited for high-performance applications as Toyota proved last weekend by claiming the FIA World Endurance Racing Championship with its purpose-built TS040 hybrid sports car prototypes at the final race of the season in Sao Paolo, Brazil.
Although they came up short in the historic 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, the crown jewel in the endurance racing series, the Toyota racers won five of the season's eight races and clinched the championship with second- and fourth place finishes in the Six Hours of Sao Paola race.
In doing so, Toyota defeated both the defending champion Audi team and a strong new entry by Porsche, which won for the first time at Sao Paolo.
Toyota’s success is a landmark in sports car racing history, as it is the first time a Japanese manufacturer has won the World Endurance Championship since its inception in 1953. It is also Toyota’s first world motorsport title since it won the World Rally Championship in 1999.
Toyota’s racing hybrid system, which has been under development since 2006, first appeared on the world championship scene in 2012. Constant progress in reducing weight, increasing power and improving efficiency has resulted in the 1,000-horsepower, all-wheel drive TS040 Hybrid which proved to be the class of the field this year.
Celebrating the championship, Toyota President Akio Toyoda said: “Toyota will use these experiences in the FIA World Endurance Championship to help revolutionize hybrid technology and to help make ever-better cars.”