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Toyota 'disappointed' not to show absolute potential on LMP1 swansong

Toyota says it's "a big disappointment" that it won't be able to explore the absolute limits of its TS050 LMP1 hybrid, but welcomes the World Endurance Championship's new hypercar regulations

In qualifying for the 2017 Le Mans 24 Hours, Toyota driver Kamui Kobayashi smashed the Circuit de la Sarthe's lap record with a 3m14.791s in the TS050.

The following year, with no manufacturer opposition for Toyota following the withdrawal of Porsche, Toyota was pegged back in accordance with a so-called Equivalence of Technology formula designed to close the gap to the non-hybrid privateer competition.

A handicap system has also been introduced for this season, resulting in Rebellion taking two victories at Shanghai and Austin.

PLUS: Why the WEC's wait for a real victory fight goes on

Earlier this year Toyota had been exploring an assault on its lap record using an unrestricted version of its TS050, but that plan has since been shelved.

For 2021, Toyota is building a prototype according to hypercar regulations which will see Le Mans lap times increase by around ten seconds, comparable to current LMP2 lap times.

Speaking to Autosport, Toyota's team director Leupen said the new hypercar and LMDh regulations were "needed to cut costs", but admitted he is also sad to see the technologically advanced LMP1 hybrids go.

"We are putting the quickest cars to rest without having explored their complete potential at Le Mans," Leupen said.

"That's a big disappointment because it would have been great to see this car going for another lap record or a distance record, because I think it's fully capable of doing it when you unleash it.

"For me [LMP1] has been one of the most interesting eras in motorsports overall. The cars were beautiful and the level of performance and technology between 2014 and 2017 (pictuted below) was extremely high."

Toyota's team advisor and former LMP1 ace Alex Wurz also said that he welcomes the new hypercar era, which has been designed to attract new manufacturers to the French endurance classic he won in 1996 and 2009.

"The way mobility and motorsports are going, I think hypercar is a very interesting new chapter," Wurz said.

"We know that there are a lot of manufacturers out there who embrace the hypercar concept.

"The lap times may be a little bit slower, but it's still extremely fast and it should control the costs."

With Toyota's 2018 and 2019 Le Mans wins coming in a period when it faced no factory opposition in a depleted LMP1 class, the Cologne-based Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe outfit is relishing the chance to start with a clean slate in 2021 and take on new competition.

PLUS: How Toyota overcame a traumatic trio of Le Mans defeats

"We're giving the organisation a chance to build a new car and showcase what Toyota can do," Leupen explained.

"We want to drive and race against other teams and manufacturers, not only amongst ourselves.

"We need to come with equal weapons, and this is what we don't have today.

"It's not only about technical dominance, it's also about managing the BoP, and getting an advantage through your drivers and through your race engineering.

"I think everybody is looking forward to that."

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