Brendon Hartley said Toyota had a bit of a “lonely race” that offered “no real fight” between any of the LMP1 cars in Sunday’s 6 Hours of Circuit of The Americas.
Rebellion Racing collected its second FIA World Endurance Championship victory of the season in a commanding run for the Swiss-flagged team that saw both Toyota TS050 Hybrids unable to match the pace of the non-hybrid privateer.
As has been the case all season, the championship-leading Toyotas entered the weekend at a performance deficit, courtesy of the Success Handicap system, although Rebellion’s trouble-free race and not a single Full Course Yellow resulted in a “perfect race” for all three LMP1 entries.
Hartley’s No. 8 Toyota finished more than 50 seconds behind the winning Rebellion.
“We knew Rebellion had outright performance on us,” the Kiwi told Sportscar365. “We had to do a perfect race and that’s what we did.
“But in fairness to Rebellion, they drove a nice race with no mistakes and very good pit stops so there wasn’t much we could do to close the gap.
“At one point we got to 22 seconds when they had a slow pit stop but they had the pace to extend away again.
“It was a bit of a lonely race and it was not really a fight between the other car as well because they were also penalized more than us for leading the championship.
“It was maybe a bit of a shame we didn’t see more wheel-to-wheel action between the LMP1 cars.”
The No. 7 Toyota, which was theoretically balanced to be 0.56 seconds per lap slower than the sister entry, ended up being closer to 1 second according to technical director Pascal Vasselon.
It translated to the Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez-driven Toyota finishing two laps behind, despite having a trouble-free run.
Conway described it as the most frustrating race of the season.
“With the traffic it’s more [of a handicap] because you have less boost to play with, it’s harder to clean the tires because you put less energy in them,” he explained.
“It was a bit of a weird one and hard to calculate with the way our cars work.
“It might look like one thing on paper but in reality it depends on the track, the whole conditions are a bit tricky.
“When there are a couple of points difference and and it’s only a couple of tenths a lap, you think, ‘Oh maybe you could overhaul it.’ But here, we had no chance.
“Whatever we did, we couldn’t get around it.”
Hartley: Success Handicap “A Bit Too Extreme”
The two-time LMP1 World Champion has argued that the FIA and ACO’s formula, introduced this season to give the privateers a chance of fighting for wins, has resulted in being “too extreme” in a perfect race scenario as seen on Sunday.
“I think it’s clear that the Success Handicap, we said from the start of the year, was a bit too extreme,” Hartley said.
“The rules that Toyota proposed at the start of the year, I think would have been quite interesting. But going into the first race, the level of handicap was 2x or 1.5x.
“That in a way made the races probably not as exciting as it could be.”
Vasselon, meanwhile, explained that handicap to the Toyotas has ended up becoming “non-linear” resulting in the larger performance gaps than what’s actually published by the FIA.
He said it became an issue from the second round of the season at Fuji but another LMP1 competitor had not run a theoretical perfect race until now.
“It was the biggest handicap we’ve had so far,” Vasselon told Sportscar365. “It was between 1.65 (Rebellion) and 2.2 seconds (No. 8 Toyota), which was just huge.
“At some point it had to be visible.
“We did everything you could do in this situation but [there was] nothing that allowed to shake up the order.”