Toyota’s FIA WEC program should be able to continue as planned despite development of a road-going version of its race-winning GR010 Hypercar hitting a roadblock after a serious incident during a test at the Fuji Speedway.
The Japanese marque has been developing a road-going version of its hybrid-powered GR010 Le Mans Hypercar for the past two-three years; the original concept pre-dating the introduction of the Hypercar regulations that will replace the outgoing LMP1 rules.
The most recent version of the road car was originally teased at the aforementioned LMH program announcement at the Circuit de la Sarthe in front of the media. Before being shown off at the French circuit during the buildup to the 2020 running of the 24 Hours, a prototype version was used to bring the trophy to the grid.
However, a Japanese media outlet reported earlier this month that a serious incident at Fuji Speedway had occurred with a pre-production example of the road car, which caught fire and was badly damaged. The original report stated that the road car program had subsequently been cancelled, putting the future of the race program in doubt due to Toyota being unable to produce the minimum number of road cars required to compete in the Hypercar class.
RACER has investigated this further and found out that while the incident at Fuji may well bring the road car project to a premature end, Toyota does not need to produce any road cars to continue racing in the FIA WEC. This is because the GR010 was built against the technical regulations for a prototype-based Hypercar, not for one based around a road-car like the ill-fated Aston Martin Valkyrie effort. There is no requirement for a parallel road car program in those regulations.
Toyota has a multi-year commitment to Le Mans Hypercar, and RACER has been informed by senior program sources that there is no current risk to the race program, which is well underway and has a 100 percent winning record in the FIA WEC this season. The team is also understood to now be evaluating additional races in the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship following the confirmation of eligibility for the LMH-rules cars in the North American Series from 2023, with a limited number of endurance races the most likely supplement to its current full-season WEC plans.
The Le Mans 24 Hours is up next for Toyota, where the GR010 HYBRID will take on its toughest test yet. Toyota is due to go testing one more time on track ahead of next month’s big race, and has been busy investigating the cause of its mechanical woes last time out at Monza.
One person who will be busy assisting the team’s preparations for Le Mans will be David Floury, who has been appointed chief race engineer. The ex-ORECA technical director is a key signing for Toyota and is believed to still be involved in some current ORECA projects alongside his new position, though in a more limited capacity.
Another new face at the program in the future may well be multiple WRC champion Sebastien Ogier, who tested the GR010 in Toyota’s Cologne simulator based at the headquarters of the Toyota Gazoo Racing WEC program last summer.
Media reports have suggested that the Frenchman, who is part of Toyota’s current WRC driver roster, may be in line to drive the GR010 on track in the not too distant future. Currently there is no concrete plan for him to race with Toyota in the FIA WEC, but RACER understands that he has been looking at competing at the Le Mans 24 Hours in recent years, and came close to competing in the LMP2 category with a current WEC team at one stage.