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How Toyota has helped its new LMGT3 partner team in WEC transition from Mercedes

Jerome Policand says assistance from Toyota Gazoo Racing and Toyota Racing Development has been vital in his Auto Sport Promotion squad's preparations to enter the World Endurance Championship with Lexus.

Akkodis ASP, Lexus RC F GT3

Photo by: AKKA-ASP

The French outfit has won each of the last two GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup titles with Mercedes, as well as claiming victory at the Spa 24 Hours in 2022, but has switched to Toyota-owned Lexus brand for 2024 in a move triggered by the WEC's move to adopt GT3 cars for the first time.

It was made clear that the new LMGT3 class that replaces GTE Am would prioritise manufacturers with an existing presence in the Hypercar class, which meant a Mercedes entry was unlikely to be admitted.

ASP already had a Toyota brand affiliation via a French GT4 programme with its GR Supra GT4 Evo that began last year, which made its switch to run the Lexus RC F GT3 that won last year's IMSA Sportscar Championship GTD Pro title a logical extension.

But Policand says the time constraints between the end of the GTWCE Sprint Cup season in late October and freight deadlines for the first round of the 2024 WEC in Qatar - with the pre-event Prologue on 24-25 February one week before - meant support from the TGR operation that runs Toyota's Hypercar programme and the TRD US operation that supports Vasser Sullivan Racing in IMSA was crucial.

"It’s great to work with these people and without the support of everyone, we are not completely ready for the first race," he told Autosport.

"It helps a lot because at the end we have roughly two and a half months to make everything happen since Zandvoort, the last race in Sprint with Mercedes, until we have to load the container to Qatar.

"So for sure we needed support from everyone."

Akkodis ASP, Lexus RC F GT3

Akkodis ASP, Lexus RC F GT3

Photo by: AKKA-ASP

Policand explained that TGR has assisted ASP at various junctures in recent months, acting technical director David Floury working closely with the team to homologate the Lexus for FIA competition.

"First what we did with the support of Toyota was the new homologation of the Lexus, because the car must be modified in terms of aero package to be allowed to the championship," he said.

"It was a small change, like splitter, front bumper, a part of the rear wing, the rear fender. But for sure we needed some wind tunnel sessions to be sure that everything was in the window."

TGR has also shared its understanding of the driveshaft-mounted torque sensors that will be used to calculate energy consumption by LMGT3 cars in each stint, a mechanism covered by the Balance of Performance that is also present in Hypercar, which Policand described as "a completely new situation" for his team.

"We don’t have the knowledge to do it, so thankful for the support of Toyota because otherwise it could have been very difficult," he said.

TGR will provide ASP with eight support staff for the opening rounds, Policand says, "to make the system work".

ASP also received assistance from TRD, with reigning IMSA GTD Pro champion Jack Hawksworth attending the team's first test with the car at Portimao to share his expertise.

"It makes sense to have a driver which knows perfectly the car and that was very useful," Policand added.

#78 Akkodis ASP: Arnold Robin, Timur Boguslavskiy, Kelvin Van Der Linde

#78 Akkodis ASP: Arnold Robin, Timur Boguslavskiy, Kelvin Van Der Linde

Photo by: AKKA-ASP

"And at the second test at Barcelona, we have help also from TRD US, which is close to Vasser Sullivan."

ASP's driving lineup also features considerable experience of TGR's operation, with 2021 Le Mans 24 Hours winner Jose Maria Lopez transferring from Toyota's Hypercar roster to partner 2021 French F4 champion Esteban Masson and GTE Am class regular Takeshi Kimura.

Read Also:

Two-time Nurburgring 24 Hours winner Kelvin van der Linde, ASP team regular Timur Boguslavskiy and Le Mans Cup GT3 champion Arnold Robin will share the sister entry.

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