Toyota back for Le Mans challenge

JAPANESE car giant Toyota is returning to European motor racing with a fresh assault on the Le Mans 24 Hours - by reviving what's left of its ill-fated formula one team.

Toyota will go up against Audi and Peugeot in an outright attack on the famous French endurance race next year. The prototype racer is currently being finalised at the company's German race base than ran the F1 team.

Testing of the petrol-electric hybrid powered machine is expected to start before the end of the year with heavy testing planned before the race in June.

Full details of the company's racing effort will be revealed in the coming weeks, but it has admitted it will also enter selected races in the new World Endurance Championship.

Since pulling out of formula one at the end of the 2009 season Toyota has been linked to a Le Mans return. The company has tried repeatedly to win Le Mans, most recently in 1998 and 1999 with its GT-One machine, which was also built and run by the German-based Toyota Motorsport team.

There was also an entry in the late 1980s and early 1990s, also without success. Mazda's victory in the 1991 edition remains the only success by a Japanese manufacturer in the race's history.

But Toyota wants to make history by becoming the first team to win the race using a hybrid-powered car.

"Toyota Motor Corporation has entered Le Mans before but by using our hybrid technology this time will be a completely new challenge," said Tadashi Yamashina, Toyota Motorsport chairman.

"We want to write a new page in the history of the Le Mans 24 Hours, as well as in the FIA World Endurance Championship, through our use of hybrid technology."

But that won't be an easy challenge with Peugeot revealing this week it has began testing its new diesel-electric hybrid Le Mans racer ahead of its racing debut next year.

Le Mans is enjoying a manufacturer boom thanks to its decision to embrace alternative fuels. The race has been won by a turbo diesel every year since 2006, and new regulations have been implemented to make petrol and hybrid cars equally competitive.

Porsche has already confirmed it will return in 2014 and Jaguar is expected to follow suit.

Bentley has also revealed its interest in return to sportscar racing, either with an outright prototype contender or a GT class entry.

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