Teams in NASCAR's Cup series currently use 358-cubic-inch pushrod V-8s. Toyota Racing Development (TRD) manufactures and rebuilds the V-8 used by its Cup teams. With large updates in store for the upcoming Next Gen car, we asked TRD's U.S. president, David Wilson, about possible changes in store, including modernized engines and the possibility of hybrid tech.
Wilson told us that Toyota and the other OEMs are in the "way early days" of discussing engine regulations for the series. In fact, there hasn't been a decision by the OEMs or NASCAR yet that there will even be a new engine. And even if there is a decision on a new engine, Wilson said, whatever they go with is not likely to be production based. There goes the idea of seeing the engine from the RC F in NASCAR.
The problem with using production engines in NASCAR, Wilson said, is that if the series moved in that direction it would also have to introduce Balance of Performance (BoP). According to Wilson, BoP is a four-letter word in the NASCAR garage.
When they do decide to build a next-generation engine, Wilson predicts, it will likely be a more modern design while sticking to a single rule set for all OEMs. Some of these changes could include moving to an aluminum engine block with an overhead-cam arrangement and direct injection. This would be a huge departure from the current iron block pushrod engine. While it would not be production based, it would implement more current technology seen on production cars.
Wilson also told us that Chevy, Toyota, and Ford are already aligned on a hybrid component for the Cup cars. This is something that has been very well received within Toyota, as the company has plans to offer some sort of electrification on every model it builds by 2025.
Wilson said it's likely that a hybrid would debut before new engine regulations. The type of hybrid he thinks it'll be is a P-2 and includes an electric motor driven off the transaxle. Much like Road and Track predicted last year.
One of the big questions about implementing a hybrid for the Cup series has been how the system will work on tracks with minimal braking, since that would impact battery regen. Wilson said that he only sees the hybrid being deployed for about half the tracks on the schedule because of the lack of braking.
Wilson sees road courses and short tracks as the real application for the technology, as they want to be able to make good use of the technology. He states that they are in the early days of developing this technology but that he sees a tactical deployment of the tech for certain situations and that it could add a whole new element to the race strategy and to the entertainment from a fan perspective. He also stated that they want a system that is powerful but also balances out to a reasonable cost while keeping with the safety paradigm of the sport. Along those lines, he believes that a 90- to 95-kilowatt system would do the job. That metric roughly converts to something in the 120-to-130-horsepower range from the electric system.
Wilson said that Toyota wants the hybrid components to be "powerful enough to be credible" and that they are not interested in hybridization for driving slowly "around the garage or pit lane." Toyota's goal is to be able to use it in the right races as part of the strategy. One of the strategies Wilson liked for the electrification would be a "push to pass" system.
Toyota is also working with IMSA in their discussions for hybrid components. Wilson did not elaborate on Toyota's potential future involvement in IMSA, but the current models planned for hybrid tech are in the top prototype categories. With the recent WEC/IMSA convergence announcement, that means it's possible that Toyota might be considering an entry in the new LMDh class or could even run its hypercar-class racer in America.
But for NASCAR, while the Next Gen car promises a lot of change for entrants, the teams can have some comfort knowing that they won’t have to invest in new engines right away.
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