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LMP1 Experience Puts Toyota in “Better Situation” for Hypercar

Toyota technical director Pascal Vasselon believes past experience will benefit Hypercar program…

Photo: James Moy/Toyota

Toyota’s experience with its Le Mans-winning LMP1 program will put the manufacturer in a “better situation” for when it enters the new Hypercar class next year, according to its technical director Pascal Vasselon.

The Japanese manufacturer is set to run a prototype-based hypercar in the 2020-21 FIA World Endurance Championship season, with on-track testing slated to begin next summer.

Vasselon suggested that Toyota’s eight years and counting in LMP1 will give it some form of edge over its only current OEM manufacturer rival, Aston Martin.

“Directly no, but in terms of know-how and principles, yes, quite a lot, because we are still talking about a car which has to perform at Le Mans,” he said, when asked how much of the TS050 Hybrid program can cross over into Hypercar.

“Even if the regulations force us to have all new parts, we carry over quite a lot of knowledge and technology.

“Everyone is in trouble because of the schedule, but we are in a slightly better situation because at least we know which kind of technology we want to use.

“We will try to use as much as possible from the current car, but the regulations are significantly different, so we have to somehow depart from this car.”

Toyota has not yet revealed any technical details of its GR Super Sport-based racer, but it’s understood that the powertrain configuration has been confirmed internally.

“We know already which direction we will go,” said Vasselon.

“We have decided the key direction of the program, going for the prototype option. We know which kind of prototype powertrain option we will have but it’s too early to disclose this.

“We are a stage [of development] which allows the regulations. We are as advanced as the regulations are, so we get 95 percent of the regulations, and we are working flat out in all areas.”

Vasselon admitted that the onset of the Hypercar program, which has needed to begin in the midst of its 2019-20 season with the TS050 Hybrid, has loaded extra pressure on both projects.

Track testing of the Hypercar is set to begin next summer, meaning it’s likely to be less than five months before the start of the 2020-21 season that it turns its first laps.

A prototype version of the GR Super Sport road car, which Toyota is developing off the back of its race program, was recently videoed testing at Fuji with Kamui Kobayashi behind the wheel.

“It’s crazy because everything is late. We are shortcutting a lot of things,” said Vasselon.

“For sure, hopefully we will not have any reliability issues on this [LMP1] car because our staff has no team to engineer it.

“The current car is put to the race team, and the development team is only based on the Hypercar [now].”

Despite the short notice, Vasselon remains optimistic that the hypercar formula will “kick off” a new golden era for sports car racing.

“For sure, everything is late. But even if it will be very tough, it is still on time to produce a nice series starting on time,” he said.

“We see quite an interesting future, because it seems that many manufacturers that were not considering it at all are now looking at it.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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