Four world titles behind them have a specific weight and inevitably create expectations for Toyota, which at the start of the 2023 season of the FIA World Endurance Championship starts once again as reigning queen.
Having grabbed the Drivers’ and Constructors’ titles since the Hypercar Class existed (following the recent domination of the last LMP1 phase), the Japanese team based in Cologne will be on stage at Sebring in a month’s time.
This time, however, the rivals will be many more and with a knife between their teeth because the maximum endurance series is taking off, something the Director of Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe, Rob Leupen, knows very well, speaking at a round table in which he took part also Motorsport.com.
Rob Leupen, Team Director Pascal Vasselon, Technical Director Toyota Gazoo Racing
Photo by: Toyota Racing
“We feel the pressure, there’s no doubt about it. What we’ve done in the last two years puts us in a position to be the team to beat, so we’ve worked over the winter to be ready for Sebring and the 2023 season, also because there are new opponents to face,” explains the Dutch manager.
For the third year in a row there will be the GR010 Hybrid on the grid, whose technical-aerodynamic innovations for 2023 will be officially shown to the public next week.
Aspects on which we worked intensely during the winter, with Leupen who has for the moment dismissed the hypothesis of the arrival of a new Hypercar, the much rumored GR020 which will sooner or later succeed the current model.
“Actually we haven’t thought about a new car, there isn’t any new chassis being studied. We spent the winter trying to lighten and improve the current GR010 in terms of aerodynamics and driveability”.
“I think things have been done well and that we’ll be competitive in the first race, then obviously there are teams like Cadillac and Porsche who have already raced at Daytona who will show up ready even with the new car.”
“And let’s not forget that there are old rivals like Glickenhaus and Peugeot who already know the series, so we will have some fierce rivals.”
#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 – Hybrid LMP1: Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez
Photo by: Toyota Racing
A fundamental point that will be discussed is the infamous Balance of Performance, which for the first time will have to balance the performance of two different prototypes such as Hypercar and LMDh.
“We’ll see what the new Balance of Performance will look like now that the LMDhs arrive, but I think Sebring will be a very interesting weekend to experience. I think all teams need to collaborate well with the ACO and FIA to have a fair BoP, I don’t think Sebring it will be the crossroads from this point of view, but some teams have already been around it, such as Porsche and Cadillac, so it is clear that all the parameters between those who have LMDhs and those who, like us, have a Hypercar will need to be carefully evaluated”.
“Everything will evolve along the way and I think everything will be done to make the series competitive. For our part, there isn’t much to do or say, we are confident that everything can be organized in the best possible way by whoever manages the series “.
Then there are the Porsche and Cadillac LMDhs that have already driven several times at Sebring, where the 1000 Miglia that will open the season will be held on 17 March (the last one a couple of days this week) and with the experience at the 24h of Daytona they will certainly have a few more cards to play.
“Last week we tried to figure out how to manage the warming up of the tyres, since tyrewarmers are now prohibited. We have to do our job, then if Cadillac and Porsche are in front, it will be up to us to try to catch them! Honestly, I don’t want to worry about this thing, if they’re ahead we’ll just have to push!”
Photo by: Toyota Racing
Finally Leupen also commented on what is the most awaited car of the lot, the Ferrari 499P which will bring the Prancing Horse back to battle for the overall victory.
Although Maranello is trying to keep their feet on the ground in view of a long-awaited debut full of unknowns, all the opponents know very well that the two Reds will not be underestimated over the course of the season.
“I think the arrival of Ferrari is great for all of us, I also speak on behalf of Porsche, Glickenhaus, Cadillac, Peugeot and Vanwall. And let’s not forget that BMW, Alpine and Lamborghini will also arrive, the series will take off further, but still I think that in Maranello they have built a car that can be competitive right away”.
“I think an immediate victory for them is possible, they know how to build and run a racing car, so their skill is unquestionable. Of course, reliability and set-up are key factors in this series, but they have rehearsed so much and have the experience to do well”.
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