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Toyota Motorsport GmbH wins Le Mans 2018 - Spurred on by carbon with Dyneema®

15.02.2019

Toyota Motorsport GmbH (TMG) had been trying to win the ultimate in automobile endurance competitions – 24 Hours of Le Mans – since 1998. The team achieved their dream in 2018 during the race’s 86th edition. Peter Hesse, TMG’s General Manager for supply chain management, attributes this remarkable win to team spirit – as well as integrating the latest cutting-edge motorsport innovations from their tech partner Royal DSM, such as Carbon with Dyneema®. Compared to pure carbon composites, this hybrid increases impact resistance by 100%, while also making the components shatterproof and lighter. “With racing lightness is everything: the lighter the car, the faster it goes…”

What do you do and why do you do it?
At TMG, I am responsible for the production and procurement areas, including quality control parts, logistics and facilities. As a team we are always looking forward – to push boundaries. The constant focus is to always improve performance of our race car. We were out to win Le Mans. 

Is “believing the impossible” part of your team’s job description?
That’s a great question. Believing the impossible, and making it happen, is really our daily job – and certainly forms the basis for our team spirit. For example, in the lead up to Le Mans in 2012 we damaged the chassis during our winter testing just a few weeks before the race. But thanks to a great team working together with production, procurement, engineers and our suppliers, we managed to reduce the lead-time by half and get the chassis just in time for Le Mans.
 
Another example: In 2016 when we were in Mexico for a race weekend we had a problem, and had to find a local machine shop and together with our engineers and mechanics, we were able to produce a new part overnight. End result: the car was on the winning podium at the end of the race.

But winning Le Mans in 2018 must have been the ultimate icing on the cake. Can you tell us about the team’s reaction? It must have been incredible – especially after your dramatic loss in 2016 after a technical malfunction in the last few minutes of the race…
The 2018 race was a very nerve-wracking experience; probably the longest 24 hours of our lives! We were confident we had the performance to win but that isn’t necessarily always enough. We know from experience that Le Mans is an incredibly difficult race to win so our preparation was more intense than ever to try to eliminate as many risks as possible. Plus, it’s not only about the car: endurance racing is a team sport and we showed great team spirit to conquer this challenge. After the tense final moments, taking the chequered flag was a very emotional moment for everyone in the team. We waited a long time to stand on the top of that podium so the memories of those moments will last forever. 

"A lighter car is a faster car so we are always interested to explore such solutions."

When did you hear first about Carbon with Dyneema®?
In 2016, we began discussing with our contacts at DSM about what alternative materials they had available that could widen our application range. And of course we were quickly interested by Carbon with Dyneema® – with its twin possibilities of reducing weight and increasing impact resistance. A lighter car is a faster car so we are always interested to explore such solutions. 

How did the partnership between TMG and DSM get established and evolve?
We already had a long-term partnership with DSM Somos: we’ve already been using their additive manufacturing materials for over 15 years. And in recent years, this partnership was reinforced to the point that we now have this technical partnership that involves an entire range of DSM material technologies – including Carbon with Dyneema®.
 
How do you see this partnership evolving further?
We are constantly looking to stay on top of technologies: production technologies, end materials, etcetera. And we hope that within the partnership we can further improve our race car and also find applications and possibilities for future road car production.

Can you explain specifically how Carbon with Dyneema® was incorporated in the winning car? 

Within the preparation for Le Mans we focus not only on performance but also on reliability. Therefore we need efficient materials that are durable for the entire race and can withstand impact from debris or tyre marbles. Carbon materials have very high strengths and Dyneema® material has a very high impact resistance. So Carbon with Dyneema® allows us in the end to combine these properties to get a better and more reliable product, which we achieved on various aerodynamic and bodywork parts. For example, on our winning Le Mans car we used Carbon with Dyneema® on the nose box cover and the frontend shroud. What’s the next big challenge for TMG? And how do you see Dyneema® products playing a role in overcoming this new challenge?Winning Le Mans was our main priority for the past few years. But we are not content with one victory; we want to win many more times. In parallel, we are very proud to be involved in various R&D projects for our mother company, Toyota Motor Corporation, which will create ever-better cars in the future. A key contributor to the success of both challenges will be innovation, so we will look to innovate in all areas, including with materials such as Dyneema®

And finally, would you share with us which innovations outside of your immediate professional field you're most excited about at the moment?

Personally, I am very interested in the development of artificial intelligence and machine learning. This is an area that has multiple uses in automotive and beyond. It’s going to be fascinating to watch how AI will enhance development speed and bring new innovations.

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