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Toyota Set to Replace No. 7 Monocoque After Sebring Crash

Toyota says LMH monocoque involved in Sebring crash “too deformed be reused”…

Photo: MPS Agency

Toyota will “probably” replace the No. 7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid’s monocoque following Jose Maria Lopez’s accident during the 1000 Miles of Sebring, according to the manufacturer’s FIA World Endurance Championship technical director.

Pascal Vasselon told Sportscar365 that the monocoque has been “too deformed to be reused” after Lopez crashed and overturned the car at Turn 14 during Friday’s season-opening race.

It marked the first major impact for an LMH prototype and is set to put Toyota in a position to introduce a replacement for round two at Spa-Francorchamps on May 7.

Sportscar365 understands that Toyota started the 2022 WEC season with two new monocoques but it’s unclear if they were previously used for testing or as spares.

The GR010 Hybrid’s crash structure kept Lopez unharmed, while the reigning world champion was checked and released from the on-site medical center before taking part in the following day’s IMSA Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring with Action Express Racing.

“The car is damaged: especially, the front-right tire and wheels have damaged the monocoque,” Vasselon assessed.

“Jose did not feel a big impact. He said the car felt very safe, which is good to hear. The car is not that badly damaged, but the tire and the wheels have been pushed into the monocoque, and the monocoque has been too deformed to be reused.”

The big accident came after an initial off for Lopez at Turn 8 while negotiating traffic.

The Argentine driver exited the Turn 7 hairpin behind Julien Andlauer’s Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR-19 and moved left to draw past the GTE-Am competitor.

However, contact occurred between the right-front of the Toyota and the left-front of the Porsche, causing the former car to spear across to the right. Lopez skidded sideways across the grass until his car dug into the end of the tire barrier line, spinning it around.

He then continued for a few corners before having the second accident, which caused a red flag.

“It was impressive that there wasn’t more damage on the car,” Vasselon said, regarding the first impact with the tires.

“We were only planning to change the front end. When Jose got back on track, really the car was OK.

“He tried to come back as quick as he could — obviously a bit too quick — because when he reached 250 km/h the pillars of the splitter broke and he lost the splitter.

“He lost the front downforce. This is why he went off.”

Vasselon described the No. 8 Toyota’s race as “focused” and without any significant problems as Sebastien Buemi, Ryo Hirakawa and Brendon Hartley took second place.

The car’s main delay occurred after the first red flag when Hartley made an emergency fuel service under the safety car, which the New Zealander needed to follow up with a full pit stop that temporarily handed second place to the No. 708 Glickenhaus 007 Pipo.

A penalty for Glickenhaus due to Ryan Briscoe overtaking the No. 64 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R before the start line at the safety car release then returned the Toyota to second.

“I would say it was all clean and a bit better than Free Practice,” Vasselon reflected.

“There were no big issues: we had the right tires for the right moments. No pit stop mistakes. We caught all the opportunities we could.

“A good race, from the team perspective.”

Vasselon would not be drawn to comment on the Hypercar class Balance of Performance after a dominant display from Alpine Elf Team’s grandfathered non-hybrid LMP1 car.

In a new BoP element for the season, Toyota had the moving speed at which its hybrid system activates raised from 120 km/h in dry conditions to 190 km/h in all conditions.

This caused a “big challenge” according to the drivers, who only found the hybrid unit’s four-wheel-drive effect useful at one or two points around the 17-turn Sebring lap.

“I would say that our target was to have a mistake-free race which we did not achieve with car No. 7, clearly,” said Vasselon.

“For the rest, I think we have achieved a focused race with car No. 8 and on the rest I cannot comment.”

Pressed further on the subject of BoP, he replied: “I cannot comment on what needs to be done for Spa. I cannot comment.

“At some point, we have demonstrated that we have a fast Hypercar, and that’s it.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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