Toyota: Le Mans BoP change could open door to WEC "sandbagging"

Toyota believes the Balance of Performance change for this month’s Le Mans 24 Hours could open the door to sandbagging in the World Endurance Championship’s Hypercar class.

#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 - Hybrid: Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez

Pascal Vasselon, Toyota Gazoo Racing’s technical director, said the decision of WEC rule makers the FIA and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest to unilaterally make revisions outside the scope of the new BoP rules introduced for 2023 has set an unwelcome precedent.

“We can say that we have been surprised that the regulations have changed without the agreement of all the manufacturers,” Vaselon told Autosport.

“We are worried that this will lead to sandbagging [the hiding of performance in order to gain a favourable BoP].”

The new BoP guidelines thrashed out by the FIA, the ACO and the manufacturers competing in the WEC’s Hypercar class this year allowed for only minimal changes over the first four races of the 2023 campaign, up to and including Le Mans on 10/11 June, as part of a drive to eliminate manipulation of the system.

Only a tweak to the balance between the Le Mans Hypercars and LMDh machinery was possible before the 24 Hours, although different manufacturers offered different interpretations on when that change could be made.

Wider changes to the individual BoPs are due after Le Mans, but in theory they were only possible before that with the unanimous agreement of the seven marques competing in the top class of the WEC.

But the FIA and ACO exercised their right as the ultimate arbiters of the WEC to impose a new BoP last week ahead of Sunday’s Le Mans Test Day.

#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 - Hybrid: Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez

#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 - Hybrid: Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

“The principle was to discourage people from sandbagging because there was no adjustment,” explained Vasselon.

“As soon as there are adjustments like this, then you create an incentive to have sandbagging.”

The decision to issue a revised BoP incorporating wholescale changes to the cars across the cars built to the two ruleset was described in a joint FIA/ACO statement as “a correction”.

They argued this proved necessary because the differences in the performance of cars built to the LMH rules were “greater than initially anticipated” after Toyota dominated the opening three rounds of the series.

Vasselon refused to confirm that the FIA and the ACO had promised the manufacturers that there would be no further revisions between the Test Day and the start of the race next Saturday.

He also wouldn’t discuss the details of the changes, which will mean the Toyota GR010 HYBRID will run 37kg heavier than in the past two WEC races.

“We are surprised and we see negative consequences; more that I cannot say,” he continued.

“As usual, to discuss the details of BoP, who got what, we are not interested in that."

The Ferrari 499P LMH, the second fastest car in the WEC so far this year, has been handed a 24kg increase in minimum weight, the Cadillac V-Series.R 11kg and the Porsche 963 LMDh three kilogrammes.

#94 Peugeot Total Energies Peugeot 9X8 - Hybrid: Loic Duval, Gustavo Menezes, Nico Mu?lle

#94 Peugeot Total Energies Peugeot 9X8 - Hybrid: Loic Duval, Gustavo Menezes, Nico Mu?lle

Photo by: Paul Foster

Peugeot’s 9X8 LMH and the non-hybrid Glickenhaus and Vanwall LMHs will run with an unchanged BoP.

Vasselon refused to put a figure on how much time the new minimum weight for the GR010 will cost around the 8.47-mile Circuit de la Sarthe at Le Mans.

The new minimum of 1080kg compares with the 1070kg at which the car weighed in last year at Le Mans.

Toyota driver and team principal Kamui Kobayashi claimed it was 1.2s a lap in a tweet that followed the release of the BoP on Wednesday.

Le Mans track action begins at 10:00 local time tomorrow with the first of the two three-hour sessions of the Test Day.

Autosport says…

Pascal Vasselon at Toyota has got a point. If the BoP can change once outside the remit of the rules laid down ahead of the season, then it can change again, whatever the FIA and the ACO appear to be saying to manufacturers.

That leaves it open to manipulation, whether that’s by manufacturers not showing their hand out on track or through political lobbying behind the scenes and in the public domain.

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