Toyota Gazoo Racing director Rob Leupen says the manufacturer would not support an extension of LMP1 beyond the 2019-20 FIA World Endurance Championship amid “ridiculous” deadlines for the new top-level prototype class.
Leupen suggested to reporters ahead of this weekend’s Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps that Toyota firmly intends to retire its TS050 Hybrid at the end of the next winter season.
No update has been issued by the ACO and the FIA regarding the state of the new regs since March, when production-based hypercars were added to the rulebook alongside hypercar-styled prototypes.
Some manufacturers, including Aston Martin and McLaren, have acknowledged that it would be difficult to formulate a program in time for the first season of the rulebook in 2020-21.
“When we talk about cost efficiency for regulations in 2020-21, my budgets are significantly under pressure because things are not decided,” said Leupen.
“We have a shorter time, but the hours to do the car are not reduced. So we need to get more people in the same time to do the job. It’s not cost-efficient. It’s ridiculous.
“We have no intention to continue with this car after the 2019-20 season, under current circumstances.”
Leupen revealed that the next technical working group meeting between the rule-makers and prospective manufacturers is set to take place on May 16.
Time is ticking for the regulations to be set in stone, with the first race of the new formula expected to be held around 15 months from now.
“We had regulations in December which I think were well-thought of,” Leupen explained.
“Ok, there were no other competitors joining at that time, so it was better to see how you could accommodate [them].
“I think there was an understanding to go [with] prototype and hypercar regulations, then you can choose and BoP goes on top. From our point of view, we agreed to all of those. We want to have competition.
“If other manufacturers want to use their road cars, so be it. For us we have not seen this as more cost-efficient. But it is up to the ACO, the FIA plus the manufacturers who want it.
“It’s a bit sad we cannot confirm our participation; we still have to wait.”
Leupen also hinted that Toyota would only be satisfied with racing in a prototype-based class without other high-end OEM manufacturers for one season.
ByKolles and Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus are the only constructors to have made a firm commitment to the WEC’s next top-level category.
“We would do this maybe for a season,” he said.
“When we came to WEC, there was Audi. That’s what we were looking for. You are looking for makes like Aston Martin, McLaren, Ferrari to compete against. You want to use their brands to enhance your own brand image.
“With all respect to Kolles and Glickenhaus, it’s not a match. We would like to continue, but with the expectation that maybe the season after next that we are not the only manufacturer.”
GTE Plus “No Option” for Toyota
Leupen rejected any interest from Toyota in the proposed ‘GTE Plus’ formula that has become a topic of recent discussion among manufacturers.
Toyota has been a staunch supporter of the new class being a prototype-based formula, with the Japanese manufacturer currently lacking a relevant car that it could incorporate into a GTE-styled category.
“It goes more in the direction of what we have shown at Le Mans last year with our [Toyota GR Super Sport] concept car,” he said.
“Toyota doesn’t have any hypercar, and from my point of view to make an existing hypercar safe and legal is not so much cheaper than to build a new monocoque.
“I have heard the rumors [of GTE-Plus and] for us it’s no option. We have no GTE car. The LFA is old, the Supra is not in this category. I would assume exit for us [if the rule-makers pursue this].”
Toyota Gazoo Racing technical director Pascal Vasselon added that the manufacturer would “need the definition” of GTE Plus before making a firm yes or no commitment.