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Leupen: Multiple Factors at Play for Toyota’s Return

Toyota’s Rob Leupen on factors to decide manufacturer’s LMP1 future…

Photo: James Moy/Toyota

Toyota Gazoo Racing team director Rob Leupen says there are multiple factors that will influence the Japanese manufacturer’s decision on whether it will continue in the FIA World Endurance Championship beyond this year.

While having initially been confirmed through the end of the 2019 season, Toyota’s LMP1 program is up for re-evaluation in the wake of Porsche’s exit from the top prototype class at the end of this year and the subsequent evolving regulations.

Leupen, who said the WEC’s eight-round “Super Season” schedule is “not the worst one you can come up with”, said they have to take a number of other things into consideration.

“If we will join [in 2018-19], it not only depends on the calendar,” Leupen told Sportscar365. “We say we now have four, maybe five races for 2018 and three races, half-season for 2019.

“What’s more interesting is to figure out what does it mean to… the LMP1 privateers. This is what we’re going to discuss in the next couple of weeks.

“We need to have a short-term decision and we will make no decision before the end of September. So maybe around Fuji, we’ll have some more information.

“We are in close exchange with the ACO and FIA and I have no doubt we’ll find a conclusion, hopefully the right one.”

With Toyota set to be the only hybrid prototype in the new-look LMP1 class, should it commit, Leupen has questioned the level of competition for the short-term, as well as possible technical changes to its TS050 Hybrid.

ACO Sporting Director Vincent Beaumesnil said they plan to bring non-hybrid prototypes up to LMP1 Hybrid performance levels, although questions have surrounded its feasibility.

“Everything can have an influence on our decision,” Leupen said. “If we’re going to change major parts on our car, we need to invest in this. It would mean where is the cost-savings aspect?

“If you have a transition season, there’s no other manufacturers, are we creating more costs or not? We need to see what they are going to do and whether it’s becoming more attractive for us or not.

“If not, then you might make a very crude decision.”

Leupen said the FIA and ACO’s new 2020 LMP1 regulations would also have a “huge impact” on their short-term decision, stressing that hybrid technology must remain part of the equation.

It comes amid talk the ACO may enter negotiations with IMSA to create a common prototype platform, based on an upstaged DPi car.

“We talk about cost reductions, you hear a lot of things about standard parts,” Leupen said. “Based on the withdrawal of Porsche, everything is shaken up now.

“The question again here, we’ve asked the ACO to closely exchange information with us in order to see where it’s going.

“We have to propose this to Toyota Motor Corporation. They will decide, we will not. Of course we will advise.

“I think this is a busy time in the next couple of weeks. We would like to have a decision sooner rather than later.”

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. daedalus

    September 13, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    I’d be surprised if the balancing act between the toyota hybrid and privaters works. If toyota get beat at le mans or for overall WEC by a privater it will be the ultimate embarrassment for toyota considering they have 10 times the budget which would probably cause them to quit.

    On the other hand if the toyota wins most of the time the privaters will cry foul and claim the ACO are favoring the manufacture like they always do and the privaters will leave or go back to LMP2.

    • Larry

      September 13, 2017 at 3:22 pm

      Well, the Toyota did get beat this year by the winning P2 car………

  2. Anonymous

    September 13, 2017 at 3:06 pm

    Is one of the unspoken factors confirmation of Works entries for the 2019/20 season?

    From the like of Peugeot, or possibly Alpine/Renault maybe? They were talking about their future and LMP2 is no longer available once their new A110 enters production. That leaves either LMP1 or DPi and I can’t see them heading to IMSA, personally.

  3. southcove

    September 13, 2017 at 3:20 pm

    In the ways that the hybrids excel (hybrid power coming on to roughly double output and then recovery mode where (like at Lemans) top speeds are a bit slower than P2… not sure how you can expect a privateer chassis builder to come up with the same high end aero work that the factories have excelled at (many times w different methods and looks)… let alone for 2018 a comparable engine package…from whom? This is when having a more active P2 chassis builder universe (Lola, Wirth, etc) might have gotten more P1 non hybrid firms on board. A few months to a year out and then potentially big changes for the next rules package in 20202…oh boy, see empty grids at the front of the pack.

    • GR88

      September 13, 2017 at 4:25 pm

      The non-hybrid LMP1’s are 150kg lighter, and from next season, will have 150bhp+ extra (750-800BHP). Ginetta will be using a purpose built direct injection version of the 2018 GP2 V6TT engine from Mechachrome.

      The non-hybrid LMP1 rules are guaranteed through to 2021.

  4. Fredor

    September 13, 2017 at 3:22 pm

    Thank goodness for Blancpain and LM GTE!

  5. Passager

    September 13, 2017 at 5:30 pm

    It is time that Toyota changes to GTE category and drops prototype category, as they are also considering GTLM in IMSA. Plus, their new Supra is coming soon, they could use new Supra for their main racing cars in both WEC and IMSA. In GTE category, there is none any Japanese car. It would be good that Toyota to join it.

    • Helmut

      September 14, 2017 at 12:52 pm

      Interesting point. The Japanese manufacturers seem to focus on Super GT. The GT500 should be on the level of GTE cars, maybe even faster. It’s difficult to judge, as one can only compare lap times from Fuji with current GTE cars, in which GT500 cars are several seconds faster than GTE, but I think the Super GT runs a different layout with one curve being different.

      • Fernando da Silva

        September 15, 2017 at 1:32 am

        Actually the GT500 cars are LMP2 fast, according to fastest lap times comparison.

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