Toshio Sato, Team President:
“Our priority this season is to win the Le Mans 24 Hours but we want too to be a part of good competitive racing across the FIA WEC.”
“It was very clear, very quickly, that there was nothing but an increased commitment from Toyota after the disappointment of the Le Mans 24 Hours last year.”
There are those that offer an opinion that a win at Le Mans might see Toyota make a more rapid departure than the current commitment to 2017 and 2018 in the FIA WEC?
“We don’t discuss that sort of plan until we have decided on the formal commitment. The programme though is driven by technology and it is proving to be a valuable part of Toyota’s R&D process.”
Toyota have though informally confirmed that the current commitment is only likely to increase if the ACO’s plans to stabilise regulations are continued through the next major ruleset change in 2020, this after some media reports suggested a potential withdrawal if hybrid technology was rowed back upon.
“For the first time the regulation changes this year reducing corner speeds and downforce with changes to the front splitter (now higher) and rear diffuser (shorter), have not been completely clawed back. From the point where, if applied to our 2016 car they would have cost us 4-5 seconds at Le Mans and perhaps 2 seconds elsewhere in the WEC on a lap we have clawed back a lot of the difference, but for the first time we have not completely recovered the time.
“One key area we addressed with the new car was the question of safety, with the cars tendency to generate lift if they got sideways (Pascal referenced Allan McNish’s accident at Le Mans in 2011).
“We found that the aero elements between the front wheels and the sidepods, designed to shape airflow when the car was in forward motion actually generated a large amount of lift if the car got sideways, that’s why you will see, both on our car, and it seems on the new Porsche too, a very different look in that area of the car.”
“The engine is an all new 2.4 litre V6. The same configuration as in 2016 but this time we have had much more time to look at a range of improvements in technology, efficiency and performance. Things that the programme for the 2016 car did not allow us to achieve in the available time.
“My 2017 Le Mans started at 15:56 on 19 June last year and since then the whole team has been moving towards winning that race.
“Of course it was tough but the way in which everybody addressed the programme going forward defines this effort.
“We look forward to measuring our efforts against Porsche!”
On the addition of a third car this year:
“When you look at our performance at Le Mans in both 2014 and 2016 there was a common pattern. We were competitive and had the performance to win but lost one car to an accident and the other to a reliability problem that we had never seen before. This gives us some further insurance against that happening a third time!”
On the selections of Yuji Kunimoto and Nico Lapierre:
“Yuji won his place during our testing programme, he was quicker than the others we tested.
“Nico knows the basic car well, and his form in LMP2 shows that he is more than capable of being competitive with us too. It is very good to have him back with us.”