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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. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for and SPEED Channel and has contributed to numerous other motorsports publications worldwide. Contact John


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