Toyota Gazoo Racing feels that the convergence plans from the ACO and IMSA are headed in the right direction following today’s LMDh news.
While a global platform featuring two formulas was never Toyota’s preferred route for the years beyond the LMP1 Hybrid era (it would rather compete in a field worldwide made up exclusively of Le Mans Hypercars) it remains just as eager for competition after two seasons with no factory opposition in LMP1 and craves a grid full of other ‘blue chip’ manufacturers.
Though Toyota recognises that today’s announcement did not include a definitive answer as to whether it’s Le Mans Hypercar will be eligible in IMSA, it is pleased that the option is still there. The door has been left ajar for Le Mans Hypercars to race in IMSA, the sanctioning body opting for a ‘wait and see’ approach for now.
Back when DSC visit Toyota Gazoo Racing’s facility in Cologne late last year, technical director Pascal Vasselon stated that Toyota would be interested in taking its car stateside to race in IMSA should the opportunity arise. This has not changed.
DSC spoke to Toyota today and it stated that despite the COVID-19 situation and the impacts that it could have on motorsport going forward, it would still explore the chance 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 DSC, “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.”
If Toyota opted not to race in IMSA as a factory, there are still options. It could offer customer cars, though it is not expecting that to happen, and isn’t currently pushing for a customer programme or have a presence via its sister brand Lexus.
DSC understands that Lexus is not interested in developing a Le Mans Hypercar or simply re-badging the forthcoming Toyota chassis as a Lexus to give it a presence in IMSA’s top class. It does, however, according to an industry source, have an interest in LMDh.
“There is a residual interest in LMDh, they have some interest. Does it need to be a Le Mans project? Not necessarily, they see value in IMSA. As for Hypercar? Definitely not.” An industry source told DSC.
All this though, concerns no sooner than 2022. Before then Toyota is due to begin racing its Le Mans Hypercar in the FIA WEC from next year onwards.
Prior to the COVID-19 situation leading to the cancellation of the WEC race at Sebring, Toyota was about to begin manufacturing the major components for the car, before the ability to create carbon fibre parts was put on hold by the current crisis.
Thus, the rollout of it, originally planned for July, has been pushed back to October.
“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 when asked on the marque’s thoughts on the WEC returning to a calendar year schedule and the delay to the debut of the Hypercar formula. “This change makes things far more comfortable as we have more time to develop the car.
“The new calendar also helps us with budget control. 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. Now we’re able to manufacturer parts again before Le Mans and use all the leftovers later in the year.”
Beyond Toyota, this move also gives the other two Le Mans Hypercar programmes from Glickenhause and ByKolles more time to prepare their cars. Glickenhaus, for instance, had already pushed back the debut to 2021 before the calendar change.
Toyota would see having competition from the outset of what it expects to be a shortened season next year as a major positive to emerge from the current situation, as Peugeot Sport (with what is still understood by DSC to be a Le Mans Hypercar) isn’t due to join the party until 2022.