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No. 8 Toyota Crew Having “Reset” After Spa Retirement

No. 8 Toyota crew approaching Le Mans with fresh mind with Spa hybrid issue now analyzed…

Photo: MPS Agency

Brendon Hartley says that the No. 8 Toyota Gazoo Racing crew is having “a bit of reset” approaching the 24 Hours of Le Mans after its LMH car retired from the previous FIA World Endurance Championship round at Spa.

A failure with the hybrid voltage converter on the No. 8 Toyota Gazoo Racing Hybrid forced Sebastien Buemi to park up and retire from round two of the WEC season.

The zero points outcome sent Hartley, Buemi and Ryo Hirakawa down to third in the world championship standings heading into the third race of the campaign next weekend.

Toyota has since undergone extensive analysis on the Spa issue, which yielded the first hybrid failure retirement for the manufacturer’s LMH program since its debut last season.

Two-time Le Mans winner Hartley hopes that the No. 8 crew can now approach the French enduro with a collective fresh mind.

“Generally, reliability has been pretty good through testing, but as we showed in Spa, things can still happen and the car is complicated,” he told Sportscar365.

“You can never really walk into a race and say that you’re 100 percent confident of reliability. There are lots of different curbs and cars.

“I’d like to say we’d be prepared for anything that happens, but of course you never know at Le Mans.

“For the championship, it’s a big hit to not walk away with any points because of a failure on the car. It was tough to take.

“It was a shame for Ryo because he is lacking experience on our car and he didn’t get to do any race laps.

“That’s a bit of a hit, but now we just reset on Le Mans. We try not to think too much about Le Mans, and just have a bit of a reset.”

Toyota identified the hybrid system issue as a failure with the converter that takes the high voltage of the front-mounted lithium-ion battery and adapts it to a lower voltage for other electronic functions.

“The part has been checked and procedures are done,” said team director Rob Leupen.

“I think we can be confident on this one here at Le Mans, but we never know what happens. Last year we thought we had solved an issue and it came back. Somehow, we managed.

“[At Spa] it was a part within the hybrid system, our colleagues from Japan immediately reacted and [got in] contact with a supplier.

“It’s a combination, so it’s not only a supplier. It’s a system and then you have to look at it. So it’s all fine. We’re confident of that.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe technical director Pascal Vasselon suggested that the team can never be completely assured that reliability issues won’t strike at Le Mans, stating that “one-off quality problems” can still appear with race-damaging consequences.

“We have more kilometers behind us, so for sure we should have been able to solve more problems,” he said.

“The main issues are one-off quality problems. We put a lot of energy in managing our suppliers: we do supplier audits, we are reviewing their processes and do what we can to guarantee quality of the parts they are providing us.

“Nevertheless, you can never rule out a one-off [problem].”

2021 ‘Removed Weight’ from No. 7 Lineup

After winning Le Mans for the first time last year, Jose Maria Lopez said that he and his No. 7 Toyota co-drivers Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi are heading into this edition with a more “natural” feeling.

Lopez, Conway and Kobayashi had the speed for victory on multiple occasions and saw their No. 8 teammates win three times in a row before finally putting everything together in August 2021.

“It does feel a bit different,” Lopez told Sportscar365.

“I felt like the years before we arrived with the pressure of never being able to win, but being there with the pace.

“I think this year feels a bit more natural. I wouldn’t say relaxed, because it’s Le Mans, but you feel like you remove the weight from your shoulders.

“I hope it will also make us work better. Everyone wants to win Le Mans and we will put in everything we have to win.

“Le Mans can be cruel; it can be everything. We will have to go hour-by-hour.”

Davey Euwema contributed to this report

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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