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Vasselon: “I Would Say Audi Will Be Here In 2018”

Toyota's technical director talks Audi rumours, cost-capping and the 2017 car

Amid the rumours of Audi pulling out of LMP1 after the 2017 season following a piece written by Auto Motor und Sport, Toyota Gazoo Racing’s technical director Pascal Vasselon told DSC that the German team is still focused on helping shape the 2018 regulations.

“If I can judge how hard Audi are fighting for the 2018 regulations,” Vasselon told DSC. “I would say they will be here in 2018. It could be a nice strategy to make everyone believe you could retire, then you are more powerful to negotiate the regulations.”

One of the big reasons cited for Audi’s departure is the budget required to compete in LMP1, which is believed to be anything between 80 to over 200 million euros annually from the three factory teams. It’s an issue which has also made Peugeot apprehensive to commit to a return to the top level in endurance racing in the near future.

“Budget is a problem,” he continued. “The next step we have is to go to a development unit system, it was called a token system in the past, but we would like to call it development units. It’s something that will limit the number of changes from one year to another on the cars.

“It will not be a miracle, but it’s the only additional thing we can do to keep costs under control. For us the it’s the only item which will work, we are sure that system is put in place it will help us. In any case, considering our limitations, we do limit ourselves. If the regulations force the others to be limited as well then that’s much better.”

Vasselon also spoke about next year’s car, which will feature significant changes to almost every aspect outside of the monocoque in an attempt to keep Toyota on its current upward trajectory back to its 2014 championship-winning form.

“We needed to recover the big performance gap we had starting in 2015,” he said. “And basically we had planned to do it in two years, this year has been a big step, and we have done better than expected, but it’s next year that we would have liked to have recovered our performance gap.

“This is why even if we keep the monocoque as a carryover part, we have planned a deeper upgrade of every other part of the car. We will have a new gearbox, engine developments, and we’ll have new bodywork. Though I cannot say at this time what the engine will be like, if it’s smaller, bigger, or a V8!

“The hybrid system though, where we are with eight megajules, cannot change massively, this part is the one part which will stay the most consistent.”

“Having three hybrid energy systems though, is something that was decided for next year. Last year we thought it was a bit too early and I was worried that it was triggering additional cost, but in the end after our discussion we agreed to do it and we are fully on board.

“It should work, the only reluctance we had was cost related, in terms of regulation development it makes full sense.”