Toyota Gazoo Racing technical director Pascal Vasselon said they will manage the ACO’s new temperature-activated driver stint length limitations “in a semi-transparent” way, should it come into play in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
A new-for-2017 rule limits limits driver stint lengths to 80 minutes if the declared “predicted perceived [ambient] temperature” is 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit) or higher in the race.
The rule is understood to only apply to cars without air conditioning, with the three Toyota TS050 Hybrids and ByKolles ENSO CLM P1/01 NISMO believed to be the only cars not running cockpit cooling systems in the race.
With Sunday’s forecast calling for 32 degree temperatures, Toyota could be forced to single stint its drivers in the closing stages of the race, which Vasselon admitted to currently be the “high risk” period for the rule’s activation.
“We will cope with that,” Vasselon told Sportscar365. “We have integrated that… and we will manage that in a semi-transparent way. I cannot explain!”
Vasselon downplayed that it would affect their race strategy, as the limit would only be enforced for a few hours, likely between 12-3 p.m. on Sunday.
The rule will only come into play if the predicted temperature, published two hours before the start of the race, is 32 degrees or higher, with the ACO then able to make further declarations throughout the race if conditions change.
“If you look at the temperature data from [Wednesday] we were below 32; we never triggered the limit. So it’s not sure we will hit the limit on race day,” Vasselon said.
“It will be close. But even if we trigger it, it would not be for ten hours; it would be between two or four hours.”
It’s still unclear if the rule could also apply to cars with air conditioning systems.
The ACO sent out a bulletin to competitors on Monday, in an attempt to clarify the situation, although teams in the paddock appear to be confused on its potential implementation.
Risi Competizione technical director Rick Mayer, who believes the 80-minute stint length rule applies to all cars, said it would severely impact their race strategy, particularly in GTE-Pro.
“With 80 minutes, you can’t do a double stint,” he told Sportscar365. “It’s going to mess everybody up.
“I can change drivers in 35 seconds, that’s not a problem. So you have to double stint tires and that would mean putting someone on someone else’s set of tires.”
When asked by Sportscar365 to clarify the rule, ACO Sporting Director Vincent Beaumesnil said everything is defined in the event’s supplementary regulations.
“When a country makes a law, the law is the law,” he told Sportscar365. “Then you have the text that explains how to apply the law.
“So what is written in the law is valid. If it’s written air conditioning in the text, it is air conditioning.”
Porsche LMP1 team principal Andreas Seidl said he doesn’t believe the rule, even if activated, would play a significant factor in the race.
“We know it’s a big hype in the paddock at the moment,” he told Sportscar365. “In the end, if you have to comply with that rule, you can only do 80 minutes, which means you can only do one stint.
“But in the end, with the refueling time you have here, which is around 30 seconds, you can change the driver without a time loss.
“The only risk is that you get a problem with a driver change, but we practice it so much all, that we manage normally in 30 seconds without a problem, so I don’t think that’s a big issue.
“Maybe with this heat it’s even better to put a fresh driver in, could also be.”
Both Seidl and Vasselon support the rule, which has been put into place for every FIA World Endurance Championship races for 2017 following excessive ambient temperatures at Circuit of The Americas in recent years.
“It has been discussed last year after Austin I think when it was so hot, because some drivers were struggling in other cars,” Seidl said.
“The most important thing is driver safety and safety on-track, and so I think it’s a sensible regulation to put in place.
“In the end it doesn’t affect the race so much. It’s more a big hype at the moment because it’s new.”
Luke Smith contributed to this report