NASCAR’s plans for its seventh generation of race cars first crossed the desk of Toyota’s senior manager for vehicle design at TRD, Todd Holbert, almost three years ago. Since then, Holbert and his team have been working on a car that will introduce more changes to the sport in one year than it has seen in the last 50 years put together. Now, we finally get a look at what Toyota (and other OEM’s) have done with the new rules and regulations.
Even though we now know what Toyota’s Camry TRD racer will look like inside and out, we’re still left with a number of unanswered questions. But first, the specs. The 5.7-liter naturally aspirated V-8 remains, and Toyota will run it in one of two states of tune depending on the track. The lower tune produces 550 hp, but the wick can be turned up to 670 hp for certain tracks.
There was talk that NASCAR might introduce some form of an electric boost to its gas-burning powertrains as the sport tries to become more eco-conscious, but TRD technical director Andy Graves said we won’t see those changes until at least 2023. That said, Graves also noted that the new, seventh-gen racer is essentially “future-proofed,” and the packaging of the new car would allow Toyota to easily adapt a hybrid system to the big V-8.
Other big changes include a move from 15- to 18-inch wheels, as well as going from a five-lug configuration to one giant center lock nut. The wheels are provided by German manufacturer BBS and are made from aluminum to help keep weight down. Bigger wheels also mean there’s room for bigger brakes for extra stopping assistance.
The chassis of Toyota’s next-gen racer is still a tubular steel frame, but the body panels are now made of a carbon composite material. The underfloor is sealed, while the solid rear axle has been replaced by a new independent rear end. There’s also a much deeper front splitter and a massive diffuser at the back of the car. These are all changes that have never been featured on NASCAR race cars before.
The car is also symmetrical from left to right—as mandated by new rules and regulations—so there’s no longer a massive disparity in the way the cars will look in profile from either side. That will also have a knock-on effect on the way the car’s aero load is balanced from left to right. It’s something NASCAR’s tried to model with computational fluid dynamics, but the series’ competitors won’t really know how to truly keep these cars balanced until rubber hits the pavement.
Another looming quandary is the way the cars will work in traffic, and if getting close to the car ahead and passing will be made more or less difficult by the new aerodynamics. So far, the seventh-gen car has been tested on just two occasions, with another test scheduled for October before the real racing starts next year. The new Camry looks great, but there’s still a lot of work to do before Toyota can call it an honest-to-goodness winner.