Porsche LMP1 team principal Andreas Seidl has admitted that Toyota’s pace at the Le Mans Test Day was “impressive” with the Japanese manufacturer appearing to hold the upper hand heading into the 24 Hours of Le Mans later this month.
The three Toyota TS050 Hybrids locked out the top of the time charts in Sunday’s test, with Kamui Kobayshi’s pace-setting 3:18.132 lap more than 1.6 seconds quicker than the pole time set by Neel Jani last year.
More impressively, it marked a five-second improvement from Toyota’s performance at the test day in 2016, with Porsche only improving by seven-tenths year-to-year.
Earl Bamber ended the day as the quickest Porsche driver, but was nearly 3.5 seconds slower in the No. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid, which was delayed due to a number of issues.
While the German manufacturer has stressed it did not go for a qualifying sim run on Sunday, it leaves questions over Porsche’s ultimate pace for the 24-hour, with Seidl admitting they could not have matched Toyota’s pace.
“We’ve had a mixed test day,” he said. “We were focusing on race setup and refrained from simulating qualifying.
“Toyota’s speed was impressive, we could not match that.
“In the coming days we will analyze today’s data and draw our conclusions to improve our cars’ performance.”
The eight-hour test saw the first face-off between the two LMP1 manufacturers in its full low-downforce configurations, despite both Toyota and Porsche running variants of the Le Mans-style aero packages in last month’s FIA World Endurance Championship round at Spa, which appeared to slightly favor the 919 Hybrid.
Both manufacturers primarily focused on tire durability runs, although the No. 2 Porsche lost nearly two hours due to the engine change after an oil leak from the morning session.
It came after an earlier delay after Brendon Hartley hit a cone, damaging the nose and floor of the car.
The cause of the oil leak is still under investigation, according to Seidl.
“It would have been nice to get more time to fine-tune our 919 but the team worked very hard to change the engine,” Timo Bernhard said.
Andre Lotterer added: “Compared to Toyota, we’re probably missing a little over a single flying lap, but then we didn’t attempt this ourselves.”
Whether Porsche’s race pace will be able to match Toyota’s lightning quick start to the month remains to be seen, with the two-time and defending race winners looking to make further improvements between now and race week.
“Although we didn’t achieve the mileage we wanted, we still [learned] important lessons for the race regarding tire choice and tire wear,” Seidl said.
“Now we go full throttle on the road to the Le Mans race week.”