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Toyota unveils shape-shifting Lemans Racer. Image by Toyota.

Toyota unveils shape-shifting Lemans Racer
Japanese maker's LA Design Show Lemans Racer solves petrol woes by never needing to refuel.
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If only Calty Design Research, the design house that dreamed up the technological tour de force that is the Lemans Racer, had spared a sliver of imagination for the concept's name. Not to worry, the concept, entered into this year's LA Design Challenge, is still quite amazing.

First of all, the shape-changing Lemans has two modes: High Speed and Cornering. For the former, the concept tucks in its wheels and narrows its body to reduce drag and allow it to reach a maximum speed of 350mph. In cornering mode, it follows, the car gets wider, which it does by increasing the width of the wheels and bodywork to improve grip around the corners.

And so it doesn't have to slow down until the race is over, the Lemans never has to refuel. By using body panels embedded with photovoltaic cells to convert light into power for the electric motors, internal combustion and pit stops are things of the past. Furthermore, the interior is completely digital, featuring computerised track plotting, collision avoidance and a robot co-pilot.

The purity of concept of the Lemans is its most impressive asset. It's designed to go very fast, all the time, and much of what it proposes is feasible in future in some form. (And thankfully not in the peculiar, eco-pandering way the BMW Hydrogen Salt Flat Racer's technology is feasible, either.)

Grid Position: 3/9

Early Retirement or Podium Finish: Races to third thanks to some insane cornering speeds and no need to stop. Might have done better if it could fly, but at least you can form a Short Circuit style pseudo-human relationship with your co-pilot during the race.

Mark Nichol - 21 Oct 2008

2025 Toyota Le Mans Racer concept. Image by Toyota.2025 Toyota Le Mans Racer concept. Image by Toyota.      - Toyota road tests
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