In this year’s World Endurance Championship, the top level of sports car racing, there will be 3 giant car manufacturers battling it out at the front of the field – Porsche, Audi and Toyota. All 3 have a long history with the sport, with Audi dominating the series in recent years with multiple Le Mans wins. Toyota built and raced many different cars during the sports Group C era, but when the rules changed in 1995 it found itself needing to come up with a new track machine and for several years raced modified road cars in the GT classes. By the time the 98 season rolled around they were ready with their futuristic GT-One (also known as the TS020). Technically the rules required that to compete in the GT class, the car had to be adapted from an existing road car on sale to customers. Along with Porsche and Mercedes who were competing in the same class at the time, Toyota realised they could make a very very small run of ‘road going’ versions of the car which were completely stripped out and were essentially race machines with a number plate screwed on to the front. They were certainly not the type of car you could drive to the shops
During the testing for Le Mans, Toyota brought out 3 GT-Ones, and quickly set times of 2nd, 5th and 10th overall, beating many of the custom prototype cars which were supposed to be the faster class. Unfortunately, the race didn’t go their way, losing two cars to an accident and a gear box failure with only one car struggling home to 9th place, some 25 laps behind it’s Porsche rival. For the 1999 race, the organisers felt that these new GT cars bent the rules too far and forced the designers to make changes. Toyota, along with Mercedes, upgraded their cars to full GT Prototype specs. As the Toyota was so far removed from a road car already, the car didn’t require many changes and the car was quick from the off, locking out the front row of the grid in qualifying.
Unfortunately, whilst the cars fought for the lead throughout the 24 hour race, all of them suffered tire problems, with the last remaining GT-One suffering a blow out whilst battling for the lead in the last hour, forcing it to pit and ultimately finish second. After the race, Toyota turned it’s attentions to their new F1 team, and didn’t race at Le Mans until 2012 when it brought it’s new Prototype car TS030 Hybrid to do battle with Audi.
You can download both the 1998 and 1999 cars with their bold red and white liveries, classic Toyota Racing colours, or you can try your hand at creating your own Le Mans livery on the blank template. This is one of my favorite ever race cars so I hope you enjoy it too!