1998 Toyota GT-One – Click above for high-res image gallery
This year's 24 Hours of Le Mans packed plenty of action, but there weren't as many automakers fielding their own entries in the top-tier LMP1 category as you might think.
There was Audi, of course, which has dominated the category for years, arch-rival Peugeot, with its diesel-powered challenger, and Aston Martin, which stepped up to the big leagues after dominating just about every GT category for years. Honda Performance Development had a couple of cars in the second-tier LMP2 category, and there were plenty of factory-supported GT cars. The rest of the LMP1 field was filled by privateers running mostly Lola, Zytek, Oreca or Judd chassis, powered by a variety of engines. But the coming years could see an influx of new automakers aiming to take on Audi for the top honors.
According to the latest rumors, race organizers ACO are in discussions with a number of car manufacturers interested in entering the LMP1 category. Chief among them is reportedly Toyota, which is said to have been working on its own prototype since last year. The Toyota LMP1 is reportedly being developed with Dome – a Japanese chassis constructor that's built such racing machinery as the competition-spec Honda NSX, an aborted F1 program and several Le Mans prototypes, as well as a handful of Toyota racers in the 1980s – and incorporates a hybrid powertrain.
The last time Toyota competed at Le Mans was with the GT-One (pictured above), which raced there in 1998 and 1999 but held the lap record at La Sarthe until 2006. The new entry, according to reports, could be ready for an assault on next year's 24 Hours of Le Mans.