While Audi and Porsche have ruled out third cars the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Toyota is targeting an expansion into a three-car LMP1 operation for next year’s race, while also planning all-new bodywork for its TS050 Hybrid.
The Japanese manufacturer, which has been winless at La Sarthe, has fielded a pair of factory prototypes since its return to the event in 2012.
It came closest to a breakthrough win this year, after engine issues for the No. 5 car of Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima took them out of the lead on the final lap.
“As usual, we’re studying three cars and the decision comes later,” Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Pascal Vasselon said during last weekend’s Six Hours of Mexico.
“No one needs to be convinced that with three cars we would have probably won [Le Mans] in ’14 and ’16. The problem is, can we get the funding for it.
“I think people are convinced but do we have the [resources] to do it? Not always, never in fact.”
Toyota’s WEC budget was increased for this year, largely for development of its all-new TS050 Hybrid, which features a 2.4-liter turbocharged V6 engine and battery storage system.
Vasselon said next year’s car will retain the same monocoque and fundamental components but will feature an all-new aero design.
“We will keep the same chassis but the bodywork will be significantly different,” he said. “It will be a big evolution.
“There will also be an evolution of engine and hybrid system.
“We will not re-design every single part but all areas of the car will get an upgrade.”
While remaining with the battery storage system, it’s understood Toyota could opt for a larger displacement engine.
Vasselon said it’s “too early” to reveal the spec of their engine.
A final decision on its possible third car for Le Mans, meanwhile, will be taken the end of October or early November.
Should it materialize, Vasselon said the car would take part in a WEC race prior to Le Mans, as had been the case with Audi and Porsche with its previous third entries in the Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.