Toyota on LMP1: 'We're Looking to Stay, Only with the Goal of Winning'
Toyota Gazoo Racing could be onboard the top prototype class after next season, even without Porsche.
Toyota has stressed that it has no "absolute deadline" on its decision for continuing the Gazoo Racing LMP1 program. With Porsche exiting the World Endurance Championship's top prototype category after this year, Toyota is expected to be the only manufacturer-backed team to compete in the series come next season. This has brought up concerns that the Japanese team could halt its program after likely gaining its first Le Mans win in 2018, but as Toyota Gazoo's president recently revealed, the team hopes to go on with the series if the conditions are right.
Toyota previously announced that it would be waiting for series officials to define the rules past the 2018-2019 season to make its choice. The company's technical director Pascal Vasselon explained that there would be no point in hurrying a decision without knowing the new rules. A fresh set of regulations is due to be brought in for review this December, possibly setting the groundwork for the future of LMP1.
"At the moment, the regulations for next year and for the future of WEC are not clear-cut. There’s no point to rush a decision based on what we know at the moment," Vasselon explained. "From our side, I don’t think we have an absolute deadline when we need to say yes or no.”
However, at this week's Tokyo Motor Show, Gazoo Racing president Shigeki Tomoyama hinted that the team hopes to stay put in the WEC. Although he didn't make any promises, Tomoyama explained that his crew will remain committed to the series through the 2018-2019 season. If the proposed regulations fall in line with Toyota's unannounced ideals, then the marque could also develop a new car for the 2020-2021 season.
"Once things have calmed down, we will make a decision, but we will probably continue to be racing in a new top-flight class which they are looking to create," said Tomoyama.
"We are looking to stay - and only with the goal of winning."
One request that Toyota has made is allowing for more competitive non-hybrid entrants in LMP1. This would level the playing field for privateer teams against Toyota, keeping them from "playing alone, ten laps in front." This revised regulation would also lower running and entry costs for newcomers, luring teams into the high-powered LMP1 category.
WEC boss Gerard Neveu made it clear that his board of executives is working to satisfy these demands.
"The clear target is to deliver the 2020 technical regulations before the last world council of the year and we are working hard on that," he said in a statement.
ACO sporting director Vincent Beaumesnil backed this up by saying that they are starting to create an agreement amongst these officials.
"We are in the middle of the process, but what we have seen so far makes us comfortable because the people in front of us have similar expectations to us," he said.