Toyota and Aston Martin commit to new Le Mans hypercar category

Toyota and Aston Martin have said they’ll be taking part in the newly announced hypercar category in the World Endurance Championship.

The regulations will allow race versions of road cars to go head to head with bespoke prototypes at the front of the field.

The championship series, which features the 24 Hours of Le Mans as its showpiece event, has seen major manufacturers such as Audi and Porsche pull out in recent years, citing spiralling costs as a key reason for their departure.

As a result, Toyota has been the only serious contender at the front of the grid.

The new rules of the revamped series, which take effect from the start of the 2020-21 season, aim “to create a top class with a level playing field” that can’t simply be dominated by those with the biggest budget. It allows for petrol- and diesel-powered cars to race side by side with hybrids, with “balance of performance” regulations designed to keep the competition close.

The only stipulation for those based on road cars is that at least 20 must have been sold.

Aston Martin was the first to confirm its entry with its Valkyrie hypercar. It will feature a bespoke version of the road car’s 6.5-litre V12 engine, a carbon-fibre structure and aerodynamic know-how gleaned from F1 thanks to the firm’s partnership with Red Bull Racing.

Aston Martin president and chief executive Andy Palmer said: “We have always said that we would one day bring Aston Martin back to Le Mans with the intention of going for the outright win when the time was right – now is that time.

“David Brown came here in 1959 with a car and a team of drivers capable of winning. We intend to do the same in 2021.”

Toyota also confirmed that it would continue to take part in the series beyond the end of the current regulations. It will make a hybrid-powered production version of the GR Super Sports concept revealed at the Tokyo Auto Salon in 2018.

The car will be run by the Toyota Gazoo Racing division, and its president, Shigeki Tomoyama, thanked the series’ organisers for working with teams to create regulations “which we hope will bring about a new golden age of endurance racing, with several manufacturers fighting for Le Mans and the FIA World Endurance Championship”.