Toyota Gazoo Racing will consider taking its GR010 Hybrid Le Mans Hypercar to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship once the car’s eligibility begins in 2023, although has stressed its focus will remain on the FIA World Endurance Championship.
The Japanese manufacturer’s four-wheel drive LMH car, which is making its debut in the WEC this year under the new Hypercar regulations, will become eligible in the WeatherTech Championship beginning in 2023 as part of the FIA, ACO and IMSA’s convergence agreement.
The development as come as “good news” for Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe technical director and TMG Vice President Pascal Vasselon, whose operation has been working alongside the sanctioning bodies and other manufacturers to find a compromise that will allow LMH and LMDh cars to compete in the same class.
“It can only be good news because we have been working on that from a regulation point of view since three years,” Vasselon told Sportscar365. “The target was to achieve this convergence so it can only be good.”
When asked if convergence provides a green-light for Toyota to participate in IMSA, Vasselon said: “From our side, there has never been a major target to race in IMSA.
“For sure it will be possible to race at Daytona, Petit Le Mans and we will obviously consider it… It is something that we are reviewing, because we need a budget of course.
“For the moment, our plan is to concentrate on WEC. Now it is quite clear that it will be possible to race as well in the U.S. We just need to plan it.”
Should Toyota green-light an IMSA program around several Michelin Endurance Cup races, the manufacturer’s U.S. arm for motorsports, Toyota Racing Development, would be in a position to support them, according to TRD President and general manager David Wilson.
“I know they want to bring that car to the U.S.,” Wilson told Sportscar365. “As a manufacturer, the opportunity to compete in the ‘Triple Crown’ of endurance races is something that’s so special and so great for global auto racing.
“There’s a lot of questions. If they bring that car to Daytona and Sebring, how we might participate from an activation and engagement standpoint?
“They are Toyota and we are the same.”
While Stellantis motorsport boss Jean-Marc Finot has indicated that it could bring its Peugeot 9X8 LMH car to IMSA under a brand that’s sold in the North American market, TRD’s Wilson said they have no plans to re-brand the GR010 Hybrid.
“From an actual racing standpoint, we wouldn’t envision building a copy of that or re-branding it as Lexus,” Wilson said. “That’s really their program.
“If and when the timing is right for us (Lexus) to go prototype [racing], it would be with an LMDh car.”
Ferrari Rules Out IMSA LMH Program for 2023
Antonello Coletta, the director of Ferrari’s Competizione GT department, has ruled out seeing the Italian manufacturer’s new four-wheel drive LMH car in the WeatherTech Championship in its launch year, with its full focus set to be on the WEC in 2023.
“Honestly speaking, I think for us it’s impossible that we are ready for Daytona,” Coletta told Sportscar365. “Because the time is very little and our target will be to be ready at the end of November, the start of December .
“It’s a miracle if we are ready for the first race of the WEC in March, but this is the real target.
“I think that Daytona should be an opportunity for 2024. It’s complicated for 2023.
“I speak for Ferrari, but I think that is the same for other manufacturers. We will see.”
Colletta said it’s “impossible” to have an answer on the prospects of a full-season WeatherTech Championship program in 2024.
“Honestly, I understand that all the papers and public are waiting for the answer on many matters, but today is very early,” he said.
“Because we have a plan to make a car, to realize the project and start with testing for the first race of the WEC.
“It’s very complicated to have a plan for all activities. We need to reflect after the first test and [make a] reaction when we will be on the track.”
He added: “Our history is grown in Daytona, Sebring, Atlanta, Le Mans so we are very happy about this convergence.
“The U.S. is the primary market for us. It’s important to have a chance to run everywhere.
“But now, we prefer to keep time to reflect very well on the data. Now we are not ready to announce an answer about it.”
Glickenhaus Expresses Desire to Race in IMSA
While his car’s eligibility in the WeatherTech Championship is unclear, Jim Glickenhaus has expressed the desire to contest the Endurance Cup races with the SCG 007.
“We want to race in Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Petit Le Mans,” he told Sportscar365. “We would like to do the IMSA Endurance [Cup].
“I could see that we might be more U.S-based in the future. That’s where our sales are.
“As a company, we have a great desire to race in the United States. When I was just a racer, I could do what I want.
“But now that we’ve got a company with a lot of employees and shareholders, I can’t just race where I want to race.”
Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report