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Toyota expects another "difficult" WEC race in Imola if car weight remains same

Toyota believes it will have to brace for another “difficult” race at Imola if its GR010 HYBRID remains the heaviest car on the World Endurance Championship grid.

#8 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 - Hybrid: Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley, Ryo Hirakawa

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

The Japanese manufacturer fears it could end up being in the same position as in Saturday’s Qatar 1812Km season-opener, where its two cars finished sixth and ninth after struggling for pace all week at the Losail International Circuit.

A front-row starting position following an impressive lap from Nyck de Vries in Hyperpole qualifying had raised some hopes that Toyota would be able to turn around its fortunes, but ultimately it didn’t even have the pace to finish on the same lap as the winning #6 Porsche Penske 963.

“It was what we had here,” lamented technical director David Floury. “We can be happy with the points we have got. Obviously looking at the big picture, [we are] not really happy."

Following a dominant 2023 campaign in which it won all races but the showpiece Le Mans 24 Hours event, Toyota received a double Balance of Performance hit for the start of the new WEC season.

The minimum weight of the two factory-entered Toyota LMH cars was bumped up by 9kg to 1089kg, while the maximum power was simultaneously reduced to 510kW or roughly 684bhp.

Those figures compared with 1030kg and 520kW for the Peugeot 9X8, which was both the lightest and the most powerful car on the grid in Qatar.

 

Both the unique layout and the freshly laid-out tarmac at Losail didn’t play into the strengths of the GR010 HYBRID, with the added weight only exacerbating the car’s problems in the opening round of the season.

The Imola circuit that the WEC will head to in April is very different in characteristics to Losail, although it features a number of chicanes that could cause headaches for the teams.

#8 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 - Hybrid: Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley, Ryo Hirakawa

#8 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 - Hybrid: Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley, Ryo Hirakawa

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Asked if weight will play less of a role in deciding the outcome of the Italian round of the championship, Floury said: “It's going to be difficult as well if we are running the same weight.”

Floury did not explicitly want to talk about Toyota’s sudden decline in form and the role BoP played in its underwhelming showing in Qatar, only saying “we have to work on our side as well but the picture we had here is not really great”.

He explained tyre graining remained a problem for Toyota in the race, despite Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and de Vries in particular showing some progress in the #7 car.

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“It's been a struggle all the time [with tyre graining],” Floury said. “Not easy with the weight we are running here.

“As we discussed after quali, we had one car that had an issue and the other car did not. But it's the way, all weekend it's been about managing the graining. 

“It's not been very nice. We have tried many things but didn't find any proper way to counteract this fact.”

 

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