Toyota has reluctantly accepted the allowance of non-hybrid cars in the top class of the 2020-21 FIA World Endurance Championship, although expects the class to eventually become all-hybrid in the future.
The Japanese manufacturer, which is expected to formally confirm its Hypercar program on Friday, has long pushed for the use of hybrid powertrains in the next-generation regs, which were initially set to mandate hybrids when initially announced in December.
However, recent revisions in the regulations and the allowance of production-based hypercars to the yet-to-be-named class, has opened up the possibility of non-hybrid machinery competing in the top category.
When asked by Sportscar365 whether Toyota is OK that the class will not mandate hybrid powertrains, Toyota Gazoo Racing technical director Pascal Vasselon indicated that it’s in the championship’s best short-term interests.
“There are a few things that have been announced, that the regulations will be open to hypercars next to prototype-based cars. And it has been said hybrids will be optional. This is the baseline,” Vasselon said.
“At some point we need competitors because we can design the perfect regulation for us [but] if no one’s joined, there’s a problem. Does it make us super happy? No. If it’s a condition to get competition, why not?”
Vasselon believes the presence of non-hybrid cars in the championship’s top class will only be for an interim basis.
“We are confident that the direction will be easier to go hybrid,” he said.
“So even if for the next year or so there are some non-hybrid cars, the roadmap is go to hybrid. It’s inevitable. All top motorsport categories are going hybrid, including WRC.
“We are comfortable that in the near future it will come back to [all] hybrid.”
While Aston Martin, also expected to confirm its hypercar program on Friday, appears to be headed towards a non-hybrid car, Vasselon reaffirmed Toyota’s direction for the new regs.
“I think it’s no mystery we will stay hybrid. We have never said anything else,” he said.
Sportscar365 understands that LMP1 privateers, including ByKolles, are reconsidering options on whether to utilize hybrids in its planned hypercar projects as well, which could place Toyota as the only hybrid-powered car in the top class again.
Toyota Staff Reduction in Progress
Vasselon confirmed that the Cologne-based team has been reduced since last season and will continue to be reduced over a two-step process, in line with the WEC’s new cost-saving regulations.
“One of the targets is to reduce the budgets need and it’s welcome for as well,” he said. “We have pushing hard for years to control costs. A few years ago, we have been pushing to limit the wind tunnel program, testing, personnel.
“Now it goes a step further. We are welcoming this for sure. So we’re going towards a smaller team.”
Vasselon expects the full reduction to be completed by 2021, once the car has been fully developed.
“There are different aspects of the budget,” he said. “You have people attending the race and you have the people developing the car. We will reduce both teams step by step.”