Over the course of the last several Olympic Games, German Paralympic athlete Andrea Eskau has earned no shortage of gold medals. Her achievements serve to benefit her collaboration with Toyota Motorsport GmbH who uses its know-how from the World Endurance Championship (WEC) and especially the 24 Hours of Le Mans to provide Eskau with optimized, high quality equipment.
Andrea Eskau is a German psychologist and Paralympic athelte born March 21, 1971 who was gravely injured at the age of 17 in a bicycle accident. Her spinal cord was affected, costing her the use of her legs, and she has been relegated to a wheelchair ever since. Interested in sports from a very young age (triathlon and cycling), her disability has not prevented her from competing. After her accident, she took up wheelchair basketball, then began cross-country skiing and biathlon in 2009.
Several years later, she found her passion: handbike, biking adapted for individuals with disabilities. In 2008, 10 years after her accident, she won the gold medal at the Beijing Paralympic Games in road cycling. She defended her title four years later in London and won the individual time trial. In Rio de Janeiro in Brazil in 2016, she won her third road cycling gold medal. Andrea Eskau is also accomplished in winter sports, winning a medal at the Vancouver Paralympic Games in 2010 by finishing third in the sitting class of the biathlon. In Sotchi, four years later, she was crowned Olympic biatholon champion (6 km) and cross-country ski champion (5 km).
For five years now, the German athlete has been working with Toyota Motorsport GmbH (TMG) who provides expertise relative to her skis and bicycle. The Japanese marque has just announced the extension of its collaboration with Andrea for the coming years, at the very least for the next two Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea (winter) in 2018 and Beijing, China (summer) in 2020.
This collaboration with Toyota Motorsport GmbH is even going a step further. Thanks to technology developed by Toyota, the weight of Andrea Eskau's equipment has been reduced which allows to her to reach a higher performance level. The German athlete's motivation is impressive as she concentrates on the improvements to her equipment the same way a driver constantly focuses on the evolution and improvement of his racing car to better his lap times. "Physically I quickly developed a high level of performance. But I realized that equipment is immensely important for at such a professional level. At some point you simply cannot go further with pure training. I got to know TOYOTA Motorsport GmbH through a friend and they were unbelievably open-minded to support me with my issues."
For her new sled equipped with skis, the TMG designers utilized carbon fiber to decrease the weight but not affect its sturdiness. The result speaks for itself: a weight reduction of 30%. "We started the process by exchanging ideas and possibilities. The first step was a sled adapted for me by TMG which brought me two gold medals at the 2014 Paralympics in Sochi. Going even further, TMG was willing to build an entire new sledge this year for me, which is even lighter, more functional and suits my needs even more than the old one. This means I can also focus on biathlon with the difficult shooting discipline; it allows me now to shoot without technical limitations."
Once again - and after Frédéric Sausset, the first quad-amputee to participate in and cross the finish line at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (2016, at the wheel of a Morgan) - motorsport, and particularly the 24 Hours, has proven to be a veritable technicological laboratory. The constant improvements made to racing cars are often reflected in daily life.
In one week, Toyota will participate in the 6 Hours of Shanghai in China for the next-to-last round of the World Endurance Championship (WEC). The Japanese marque won the last race that took place in Fuji at home (the #8 TS050 Hybrid of Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima)! The various titles in the LMP1 class are still up for grabs. Though Toyota's chances are slim, anything can happen!
Quotations and photos from TMG press release.