Toyota Gazoo Racing has lauded today’s release of LMDh and LM H technical details as positive for the future, and feels that the convergence plans from the ACO and IMSA are headed in the right direction.
While the converged rules are not Toyota’s ideal solution (it would rather race against a field of Le Mans Hypercars rather than two solutions BoP’d together), it is eager for competition, so for now is content with the outcome.
The announcement specifically stated that: “IMSA, with the Rolex 24 At Daytona as its premier event, will welcome LMDh cars while being open to LMH participation from mainstream automotive manufacturers once performance at IMSA circuits can be further validated.”
While this is not a full confirmation that Le Mans Hypercars will be eligible for IMSA competition from 2022, the door has been left ajar; IMSA taking a ‘wait and see’ approach.
Toyota Gazoo Racing’s technical director Pascal Vasselon spoke to RACER back in December of last year, before the convergence roadmap was outlined, and stated back then that Toyota would be interested in taking its car Stateside to race in IMSA should the opportunity arise.
This sentiment has not changed; Toyota telling RACER today that it would still welcome the opportunity to take its hybrid-powered racing version of the GR Super Sports Concept to IMSA.
“We’d have an open mind to do more than the Rolex 24,” a Toyota source told RACER. “We wouldn’t be fixed on one race. We’d have a look to do other IMSA races; it would just depend on calendars and budgets.
“We’d look into that in good detail, have a look at all the IMSA races and see which ones make sense. The Rolex 24 is a classic race for, we’d love to go over and win that.”
Should Toyota be unable to or choose not to compete in IMSA with a Le Mans Hypercar as a factory, would it still have a presence via a customer program or sister brand Lexus? Customer cars are an option, though RACER believes that Toyota is not actively pursuing a customer program for its Hypercar.
As for Lexus, RACER understands that it is not interested in developing a Le Mans Hypercar or simply re-badging the Toyota chassis as a Lexus to give it a presence in IMSA’s top class. It does, however, have an interest in LMDh.
“There is a residual interest in LMDh, they have some interest,” one source told RACER. “Does it need to be a Le Mans project? Not necessarily, they see value in IMSA. As for Hypercar, definitely not.”
As for the Toyota Hypercar itself, the operation at Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe in Cologne has been affected by the COVID-19 situation like everyone else, but the feeling is that the change in calendar format from a winterized schedule to one based on the calendar year will be a huge help, because it pushes the global debut of Le Mans Hypercar back from later this year to the start of the 2021 season.
“We were going to be able to make Silverstone, but it would have been tight and we wouldn’t have done much testing,” the Toyota source said. “This change makes things far more comfortable as we have more time to develop the car.”
Prior to COVID-19 impacting the program, TGR was close to being able to manufacture the major components for the car before the ability to create carbon fiber parts was put on hold.
“We are on track for an October (2020) rollout now,” RACER was told. Previously, the target had been July.
Toyota also feels this change in calendar is better for budgets going forward.
“When Le Mans was the finale we’d have to make spares for that race in bulk, then have to dispose of a batch we didn’t use after the race because the next race would be with new solutions to the car for the start of next season,” the source said. “Now, we’re able to manufacturer parts again before Le Mans and use all the leftovers later in the year.”
Beyond Toyota, this change also gives its confirmed competitors in the Le Mans Hypercar ranks for year one – Glickenhaus and ByKolles – additional time to get their cars ready for the first race next year. Glickenhaus previously told RACER that it was unlikely to make the start of the 2020/21 season and would join the championship in 2021. (Peugeot is set to join in 2022, and RACER understands that its preference is still to race with a Le Mans Hypercar).
Toyota is not the only major OEM to offer a positive reaction to today’s news. Porsche sent out a statement from Fritz Erzinger in the aftermath of the ACO-IMSA news that said:
“ACO and IMSA have fulfilled our expectations. It’ll be possible to compete for overall victories in most important endurance series with one vehicle. We’re now getting underway with concept study commissioned by our board of directors”.