Toyota to return to Le Mans with hybrid racecar

Toyota's entry will compete in the top LMP1 class of the famous endurance race.

Racing is a time-tested way for a company to drum up excitement for its cars, and Toyota, which company execs have conceded could use a shot of adrenaline, has announced that it will participate in next year's running of the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The automaker will compete with a gasoline-hybrid racecar in the top LMP1 class of the endurance race. The car's chassis was designed at Toyota Motorsport's high-performance center in Cologne, Germany, which will also serve as the HQ for the Le Mans racing effort, while the hybrid powertrain will be produced by Toyota in Japan.

The design of the car is reportedly already at a fairly advanced stage, with testing set to begin early next year. Toyota says that further details such as such as a team name and drivers will be released in "due course."

"We have competed in Le Mans before, but by using our hybrid technology, our participation in 2012 will be completely new. We want to make history in the Le Mans 24 Hours, as well as in the FIA World Endurance Championship, through use of our hybrid technology," said Senior Managing Officer Tadashi Yamashina. "In addition, we aim to learn from the experience of competing in such a challenging motorsport environment to enhance our production-car technology."

Yamashina's statement would seem to leave the door open for tech from the racecar to trickle down to future production Toyota's, perhaps in the form of a high-performance hybrid model.

Toyota has competed at Le Mans before, most recently with the GT-One prototype of the late 1990s, but it has yet to record an overall victory.