PHOTO CAPTION: Toyota's TS040 LMP1 entrant for the 2015 WEC

2015 WEC Could Be Most Competitive Yet

Hybrid Le Mans Prototype (LMP) racers have come to dominate the World Endurance Championship and 2015 may be the most competitive yet.

Published: 10-Apr-2015

In 2014, Toyota's TS040 hybrid-electric race car, pictured above, won five of the eight World Endurance Championship race series. That means it enters the 2015 season, which kicks off this coming weekend on April 12 at Silverstone, England, as the series champion; a position that drivers and observers believe is going to be seriously challenged by two other dominate teams: Le Mans-winning Audi and up-and-coming powerhouse Porsche.

All three teams have turned to hybrid electric drive systems to give their cars a competitive edge. 2014 series-winning Toyota stores their car's kinetic energy as electric power in an ultracapacitor bank. Audi's uses a kinetic energy flywheel, while Porsche uses a water-cooled lithium-ion battery pack. Going with a hybrid system gives the cars better acceleration and improved fuel economy, important in races that can last anywhere from 6 hours to a full day and night like the historic race in Le Mans, France.

Audi has handily won the last three 24 Hours of Le Mans with their pioneering diesel electric hybrid R18 e-tron quattro. While Toyota has posed a serious challenge with its TS030 and follow-on TS040 cars the last two years, it's been unable to upset the German carmaker in Le Mans.

For its part, Porsche entered its own hybrid-electric 919 for the first time in 2014, but is very quickly showing itself to be a game competitor: its cars placing first and second in "The Prologue," a pre-season opener to the WEC held last last month in Le Castellet, France.

The 2015 WEC season will be one of watch. Will Toyota finally take Le Mans or will Audi stymie it again, or will Porsche upset them both? The "games" begin this weekend in England.

Audi R18 e-tron quattro

2015 Audi R18 e-tron quattro LMP1 racer

Porsche 919

2015 Porsche 919 LMP1 racer

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