Toyota Gazoo Racing’s FIA WEC Hypercar program is set to go ahead as planned, despite Aston Martin cancelling its Valkyrie-based effort earlier this week.
“There is little we can do about Aston Martin, we have to accept the news,” Toyota Gazoo Racing technical director Pascal Vasselon said at COTA on Friday. “For us, it doesn’t change anything except the picture of next season has changed. Now we are looking at who will be present on the grid. We have little more we can say – it is sad, obviously.”
The Japanese brand, Vasselon said, will continue to develop its Hypercar, which will debut in the 2020/21 FIA WEC season, and not pursue racing a chassis designed for the forthcoming ‘global’ LMDh platform.
“It’s not really possible (to shift to an LMDh program now) and it has not been considered,” he said. “Most of the parts for our car are in production, so there is no way back. (LMDh) doesn’t correspond with what we are looking for. We are looking to race to develop technology, and to prove technology. For us, it’s not interesting to purchase a (LMP2) chassis and an off-the-shelf hybrid system. This is not what we are looking for, or are asked to do. We believe there are ways forward.”
As it stands, Toyota is set to compete against Glickenhaus and ByKolles in season one. American manufacturer Glickenhaus is set to enter the season at the Kyalami round in February 2021, while ByKolles, which RACER understands is continuing to develop its planned Hypercar, plans to make the season-opener at Silverstone. Peugeot is still signed up and will race in at some point in 2022, though whether or not it will run an LMH or LMDh car now is up in the air.
While this is not ideal for Toyota, it insists that it relishes the chance to race against LMDh manufacturers in the future and isn’t worried about how effective the BoP process that will govern the formula, even if the number of LMDh competitors far outweighs those racing with LMH cars.
“The ACO and FIA claim that the Balance of Performance that is planned is the best ever,” he explained. “We can’t believe there will be an imbalance. By principal, the balance of performance that is coming cannot be politically driven.”
Vasselon did admit his frustration in Aston Martin pulling out, especially as the British marque had steered the Hypercar regulations in a direction that matched its own priorities before committing.
“It’s frustrating, because the manufacturer that has somehow steered the regulations and caused delays is gone,” he said. :We just want to be positive and move forward. It would be difficult to estimate (how much money it cost), it cost a lot of time for the people working on the program, that’s for sure.”
There is also a sense of puzzlement within Toyota, which is still waiting to find out whether or not Le Mans Hypercars will be eligible in IMSA competition in the same way that LMDh cars will be able to compete in the FIA WEC. Right now it is an unknown, with the ACO and IMSA scheduled to present the technical regulations for the global LMDH formula to the public for the first time at Sebring next month. Before then, there are IMSA steering committee meetings scheduled to take place next week in Daytona, and another the week before Sebring.
Toyota may well be a part of those discussions for the first time. Vasselon did not rule it out when RACER asked whether or not Toyota would be in attendance. “It is not defined yet,” he said.
So Toyota’s Hypercar program soldiers on. The plan remains that it will take part in two tests ahead of the FIA WEC pre-season official test at Silverstone.
“We have a strategy,” Vasselon said. “We want to be involved in motorsport, especially in endurance racing, and at some point we hope for better times. But at the moment we can say that Toyota wants to be present in endurance racing.”