Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe team director Rob Leupen indicated that there are no major expectations for Sebastien Ogier’s test in the team’s Le Mans Hypercar this weekend in Bahrain.
The seven-time World Rally champion will sample the Toyota GR010 Hybrid in Sunday’s rookie test following the FIA World Endurance Championship season finale.
Ogier, who drives for the Japanese manufacturer in WRC, has expressed ambitions of making a switch to circuit racing, although Toyota is taking a wait-and-see approach to observe his potential at the wheel of its LMH car.
“First of all [it’s] to give him the opportunity to do and to go there,” Leupen told Sportscar365. “We don’t have to talk about his [skills] in WRC.
“He has his own interests. He wants to have this test and he’s very, very motivated. He spent two days in the sim in Cologne.
“He will experience the car here, which I promised to him will be a big different to a WRC car. I think that’s without any doubt.
“Then we’ll see. He’s still driving in some races in WRC next year. He’s not in our [WEC] driver lineup for 2022, I would assume.”
When asked about Ogier’s WEC ambitions, Leupen indicated that gaining endurance racing experience — no matter the car — will be crucial for the 37-year-old Frenchman.
“As is the case with WRC, we know that experience in endurance racing is extremely important,” he said. “If we wants to be a serious Le Mans contestant, yes.
“Let’s see what experience he can do here, what experience he makes. I think it’s great for the team to have him in the car.
“It gives a bit of a similar feeling back to 2017 with Fernando [Alonso]. A big name and a very nice guy. It’s very good everybody to have him here.”
Third Car for Ogier at 24H Le Mans Unlikely
Leupen downplayed the prospects of Toyota fielding a third LMH car in the 24 Hours of Le Mans next year for Ogier, although TGR-E technical director Pascal Vasselon would not completely rule it out.
“I don’t think so,” said Leupen when asked about the chances of a third car for Le Mans in 2022.
“I think this is [for] the best. There are still a lot of things to do. We need to be prepared well for 2023.
“Next year will be an important year for us. We still have some hiccups in the car if you could see with the fuel issue and other issues.
“We need to get used to BoP more and more and the team still has a lot to learn. For us it’s 2022 to continue on this route and then look forward to what’s going to happen in 2023.”
Vasselon added: “Every single year we have to think about a third car. But in the moment it’s not in the plan.
“We are very happy to give this opportunity to Seb and happy to have links between these two activities of the company.
“After I would say it’s driver management. [A third car] cannot be only to please a driver or another. Anything is possible we just have to go through our process.”
Vasselon said they expect to announce next year’s driver lineup either in December or January.