Toyota Gazoo Racing team director Rob Leupen has said that the Hypercar category’s lap time deficit to the LMP2 class at the FIA World Endurance Championship Prologue pre-season test “should be reviewed” before this weekend’s Total 6 Hours of Spa race.
Despite being given a series of performance restrictions to lap slower than the new Hypercar top class, LMP2 machinery beat the entries from Toyota and Alpine Endurance Team in three of the four pre-season test sessions held across Monday and Tuesday.
An Oreca-based Aurus 01 Gibson driven by Toyota reserve driver Nyck de Vries posted the fastest lap of the event that was half a second quicker than the top Toyota time.
Leupen said that Toyota was “a bit surprised” at being outpaced by what is supposed to be the slower of the two prototype classes and iterated a hope for the WEC organization to “look at” the situation before the first round of the 2021 season on Saturday.
“A bit surprised about the speed of the LMP2s of course,” he told Sportscar365. “This is something where we should be a bit ahead of, and we find out that they are quicker than us here on a lap.
“Maybe on a long stint we might get the edge, but this is not what we have expected. We have to see what’s going to happen after the Prologue if something is going to happen. It’s a learning curve.
He continued: “At the present moment, we think we are in the ballpark we need to be.
“I think it’s more on the organization side to balance the LMP2 and the Hypercar with the performance. I don’t think we can do much about this.
“I don’t think we can see us going four or five seconds a lap quicker from one day to another. Even with BoP, we won’t manage this. It’s something that, for me, the organization has to look at as what we have to do.
“We are on a good pace for what we have learned during testing.”
Toyota is known to have tested alongside LMP2s during part of its pre-season program with the GR010, but it’s unclear what specifications those LMP2s were running to.
LMP2 was originally due to contest the 2021 WEC at a reduced 560 hp but the class was handed a further power reduction and weight increase earlier this month as part of the ‘stratification’ process to create a gap between the different prototype formulas.
“We saw them running there [in private testing] what the times are, because we are looking ahead to how it’s going to be handled,” said Leupen. “Based on that information, we got some times. At Aragon, they were at least on the same pace as we are.
“All the tracks where we went, LMP2 went. We got the information. It’s not nice to see that they are so far ahead, but it’s something which I think should be reviewed. We will find out. It’s not us.”
When asked if it would be feasible to imagine an LMP2 car winning this weekend’s 6 Hours of Spa outright, Leupen said: “I think based on the cars there and the weather that’s coming up, the chance is there.
“If it comes based on pure pace, then something has been done wrong. If we don’t finish, because of reliability issues or driver and team mistakes, then that’s OK if an LMP2 wins.
“But if this is the top category, we should be quicker. Not by a tenth or two or three, but three or four seconds at least, based on what we have seen over the last couple of years.
“If we are only quicker on a long run because of tire management, it cannot be. Because if we are the highest category in the WEC, we should be able to out-pace them on one lap.
“If we are going to fight them for a pole position then something is, from my point of view, not balanced.”
Alpine “Working for a Few Tenths” with LMP1
Alpine Endurance Team’s Matthieu Vaxiviere suggested that the French squad’s grandfathered LMP1 car is pushing to the maximum despite also falling behind the LMP2s.
The ORECA-built Alpine A480 Gibson has been given a reduced power output and more weight compared to last year when it ran as a Rebellion R13 with Rebellion Racing.
It now produces 600 hp, the same as an LMP2 from last season, and weighs 930 kg which is 106 kg more than when it started the 2019-20 campaign before a series of success handicaps came into play. Current restrictions put LMP2 at 536 hp and 950 kg.
“We were expecting a close gap, but we are behind,” said Vaxiviere, who set the Alpine’s fastest Prologue lap of 2:05.230.
“Everything needs to be in place, so we’ll see. I think we already have a good setup. We are working for a few tenths, one or two tenths on setup, but we are flat [out].”
When asked if he considered there to be any games being played between the Hypercar entrants, Leupen said that Toyota has “nothing to play” and suggested the same for Alpine.
“I think they do the best job they can,” he said. “It’s then up to the FIA and ACO to find out what is the best for them.
“Of course, you want to be in the best position for the race as you would like to win. This is what BoP can always be about. Are they playing? I would not like to say that. I think they will try to get the best position for them to do the race this weekend.
“We also can say that we are quite well where we are, and that this is following our expectations.
“We say [their car] comes from the top to the bottom, to a lower level. But we are there. We have nothing to play.”