We’ve already caught up with Jim Glickenhaus on the latest with his new for 2021 LMH ‘Hypercar programme’ now it’s time for the very latest from Toyota Gazoo Racing Technical Director Pascal Vasselon on progress with Toyota’s programme to field their GR Super Sport racer in next year’s FIA World Endurance Championship.
With the delays caused to programmes across the world, and with the impact of the convergence process, drawing the LMH, and future LMDH rulesets into much closer proximity, there’s plenty to catch up on:
Pascal, how is the programme progressing in the wake of the COVID19 pandemic?
“The effect on the Hypercar programme has been one of the few positive effects of the Coronavirus. It has allowed us to put the LMH programme within a more workable timeframe that it would have otherwise been if the initial timeframe would have stayed in place.
“Everyone wanted to say it would work but it was presenting very high risks for the programme.
“For our side, we were building the car just two months before the first race, we had to complete a very complex homologation procedure for the aero kit and the powertrain. It was extremely tight and nearly not physically possible.
“We did not want really to say that, but it was close to impossible.
“Now with the virus, it’s become obviously more workable and then now we are busy with a more realistic schedule to finalise the car.
“Now we are producing it. It’s still a big push but it’s workable.
And when will the car run for the first time?
“We are planning a roll-out in October, one month after Le Mans. So it will give us enough time to get prepared for the first race in March and it gives enough time to go through the new homologation, which is extremely tough and would have been extremely difficult to do in just eight weeks.
What effect on the programme has the process of convergence had. Clearly that must have presented some challenges with some big differences to the programme from what you initially envisaged?
“Yes, convergence has triggered a change of performance working points because after several meetings we came to the conclusion that it was not possible to converge on the initial LMH working point which had been made to accept cars built on hypercars.
“That was made basically to comply with the requirements at the time of McLaren, of Aston Martin and of Ferrari.
“But these people finally did not come. To start with we had this working point with very high power and very high weight and this was not achievable for people coming from IMSA.
“So, the target for performance working point has been changed. This has an impact on our design, and to minimise this impact it has been decided to implement this new working point already in 2021 because it would have been a bit silly for us to develop for 2021 a car to the old regulations and then the year after to have to develop a car to a whole different set of rules.
“We decided that we could bring this forward so that all LMH competitors in 2021 will already be working around the future LMDH working points.”
That presumably might give you a bit of an advantage in terms of having a more mature basis when LMDH eventually arrives, whether that be ’22 or ’23? You will have a fully developed package?
“Yes, that’s true. Nevertheless, we now must take into account that these Series are governed by balance of performance. So, whatever gain you make it will be balanced ultimately.”
Is there an inclination from Toyota that you would like to take the opportunity of convergence to add a couple of the bigger US races to the programme?
“It is too early to discuss that at the moment. Our current programme is focusing on the WEC. We are very favourable to the process of convergence simply because we need competitors in WEC. At the moment we have not started to discuss whether to expand the programme.”
What have been the particular challenges beyond the logistical issues of COVID to develop this car?
“There have definitely been significant challenges because our supply chain has been stopped at some point.
“Especially we have a lot of Italian partners which obviously gave difficulties when they stopped working (with lockdown) in March and April. That put us back for sure, but all of these delays have now been solved by the delay to LMH and the new schedule. With difficulties, we are now back to a workable schedule.”
Is it basically the same as before, that the powertrain is coming from Japan, but the car is being built in Cologne?
“Yes, it’s the same distribution of tasks. Now, what has changed now though is that there is a very strong powertrain team integrated within the project. We have increased and improved the connections between the two parts of the team with part of the powertrain team now located in Cologne.”
The last time we spoke about hypercar you talked about it being a necessary stepping stone to the next technological step that comes somewhat later. We’re in a different world right now – does it still feel like a necessary stepping stone? Or has this now become a more long term programme?
“We will see. From our side, we would prefer to be able, after a few years to move away from the balance of performance, this is our preference. But the first thing is to have competitors, so for the next few years it’s clear that LMH and LMDH is the immediate future.”