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Toyota Hints at Push for Additional Evo Jokers

Rob Leupen says Toyota may need more jokers to keep aging GR010 Hybrid competitive…

Photo: Julien Delfosse/DPPI

Toyota has hinted that an extension of the Hypercar category in the FIA World Endurance Championship could prompt it to seek an allowance for additional Evo jokers over the remainder of the life of the GR010 Hybrid.

The Japanese manufacturer has been part of the WEC’s Hypercar class since its inception in 2021, with the current season marking the GR010’s fourth year in competition.

Toyota is known to have used at least one of the five Evo jokers given to manufacturers to use throughout the car’s homologation cycle since then, although the exact number has never been specified and the information is not made public by the FIA and ACO.

Ahead of last month’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, it was announced that the homologations of the current breed of LMH and LMDh designs racing in Hypercar would be extended through 2029, with two additional jokers given to use in 2028 and 2029.

This came alongside the news that the long-awaited hydrogen category, in which Toyota has shown a strong interest, will not debut at Le Mans until 2028.

Speaking to Sportscar365, Toyota team director Rob Leupen suggested that the Cologne-based squad could try and argue the case to be given more jokers prior to 2028 in order to keep up with its rivals using newer machinery.

Asked whether he had any concerns about not having enough remaining jokers to keep the GR010 Hybrid competitive, Leupen replied: “As they extend [the rules], maybe we should negotiate this, because our car is by far the oldest.

“We haven’t done anything additional for the performance. You might even need to tune the others down more.

“This is something our technical team, David [Floury] and his team, will look at, and we’ll see where we go. But at some point, we need to use some jokers.”

Leupen backed the FIA’s decision to delay the introduction of the hydrogen class until 2028, but said he hopes it is the final time that the category’s arrival is postponed, with the class initially having been pencilled in for a 2024 start.

“If you listen to what [FIA technical director] Xavier Mestelan-Pinon said, it’s not a surprise,” said Leupen. “We are listening very carefully to this, and this is something we need to take into consideration.

“I don’t think it should be pushed back further. The good thing is that we can run the current car another two years longer. From my understanding, this is the FIA and ACO’s answer to the later introduction of hydrogen.

“When you race with hydrogen, the amount of changes you have to make to the infrastructure is huge. So from this point of view, the delay is sensible.”

Third Car Hopes Diminished; China On Calendar Wish List

Giving his reaction to other announcements made during the ACO press conference, Leupen admitted that the new-for-2025 two-car mandate for Hypercar manufacturers could have an impact on Toyota’s hopes of eventually running a third car.

Leupen revealed earlier in the year that Toyota has begun to investigate the feasibility of expanding its current operation to a third car to combat chief rivals Ferrari and Porsche, although 2026 is the earliest possible start date.

However, with Aston Martin joining the grid next season with two cars and Cadillac, Lamborghini and Isotta Fraschini all preparing to add second cars in line with the rules, it raises questions over whether there would be space on the grid for a third Toyota.

“It could be the case [that there is no space], yes,” Leupen acknowledged. “But it’s too early because we don’t have anything [concrete] to say at the moment about a third car.

“My understanding is that for a third car [at Le Mans] you have to run a full season, like the Ferrari third car. That’s the feedback we had from the ACO and FIA.”

Leupen also suggested that a return to the calendar for China could be something that Toyota pushes for in the coming seasons.

The 2025 WEC calendar released last month is near-identical to this year’s schedule, featuring the same eight venues, and series CEO Frederic Lequien has already downplayed the chances of a ninth race being added for 2026.

China last held a WEC race in late 2019 at the Shanghai International Circuit, which hosted Formula 1 for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year.

“The calendar looks okay, nothing to complain about at this stage,” said Leupen. “We were not asked about the calendar, it’s what they have copy-pasted, and from that point of view it’s okay for 2025.

“Always the one that comes up in our talks with our colleagues in Japan is China, which is a big market. I think China will be a discussion.

“That’s the only market we would like to add. But let’s see how it goes next year.”

Jamie Klein is Sportscar365's Asian editor. Japan-based Klein, who previously worked for Motorsport Network on the Motorsport.cоm and Autosport titles, covers the FIA World Endurance Championship and SUPER GT, among other series.

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