The privateer contingent of the FIA WEC’s LMP1 class are not confident that Equivalence of Technology (EoT) changes are enough to allow them to realistically compete with Toyota for race wins going forward.
In the most recent round of EoT changes made for this weekend’s 6 Hours of Fuji, Toyota’s TS050 HYBRIDs have had an additional 26kg (57 pounds) of ballast added, and had its advantages in the pits and with stint length nullified.
Multiple drivers spoke out on the first day of practice at Fuji Speedway, admitting that they are still effectively going to be battling for third place on Sunday.
“The car at Silverstone, it was pretty tough to drive,” said SMP Racing’s Jenson Button. “A lot of LMP1s and P2s struggle on the bumps. We did well to qualify third and run third in the race. We hope for a a good result, but there’s a lot of room for improvement.
“This is my third race at Fuji this year, I’m experienced here, especially in how the weather changes. It’s interesting to have the comparison between my Honda in Super GT and the BR1 around here, in just how different the car feels and where the losses and gains are.
“Come the race, staying with Rebellion is our focus. But you know, if we get a good lap in qualifying, we could be within a second of the Toyotas. In the race though, forget it, it’s a completely different race for us, it’s so difficult to overtake, especially in the third sector.
“With these guys [Toyota] they have so much power through the corners, that’s where we lose out. Qualifying is what I’m really looking forward to.”
Rebellion Racing’s Gustavo Menezes, who won last time out at Silverstone after Toyota’s disqualifications, echoed Button’s thoughts.
He told RACER that he feels Rebellion’s R-13s might get within a second of Toyota during qualifying, but will ultimately finish multiple laps down during the race if they run without an abnormal amount of full-course yellows or Safety Car periods.
Menezes said the team’s target now is to try and stay within a mathematical chance of winning the title until Le Mans and see what happens. Currently, Menezes and teammates Thomas Laurent and Mathias Beche are just two points off the No. 8 Toyota crew of Fernando Alonso, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima.
When asked by RACER to quantify the EoT changes, a spokesperson from Toyota responded that over the course of six hours, the team feels its TS050s are set to be roughly half a second slower per lap than they were last year.
Theoretically, if the changes were to affect the cars at Le Mans (though they won’t, as it’s not part of Toyota’s agreement with the FIA and ACO), the Japanese manufacturer projects it would cost its cars around a second a lap.
“We need to wait and see (how much effect the changes have made),” said points leader Fernando Alonso. “I think the advantage we had in the previous races was enough to be able to maintain the advantage in this race. We definitely feel the weight in the car though, and are slower in a lot of places round here.
“Hopefully we still have the quickest car out there.”