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Toyota not surprised by poor Sebring WEC qualifying showing

Toyota has expressed no surprise at ending up at the back of the Hypercar pack and among the fastest LMP2s in qualifying for Friday’s FIA World Endurance Championship opener at Sebring.   

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

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

The performance of the two Toyota GR010 Hybrids, which ended up fourth and seventh in qualifying on Thursday evening, was in line with the team’s expectations after the pre-event Prologue test and free practice, according to Toyota Gazoo Racing technical director Pascal Vasselon. 

“What has happened in qualy is exactly in line with what has happened in all the sessions, so not a surprise,” said Vasselon.

Asked if there was disappointment, he replied: “Of course, it is not our goal to be the last in Hypercar and be in the middle of the LMP2s. But it is a situation that we have seen since the Prologue.”

Vasselon repeated his stance that he is not going to comment on the Balance of Performance, but he did question whether the simulations employed by the rule makers, the FIA and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, accurately modelled the Sebring track. 

“BoP is done with simulations and simulations struggle to take into account circuits like Sebring with a lot of bumps,” he explained.

“The models are probably not combining accurately on a circuit like this, the effect of weight, power and downforce when the cars are very different in terms of the performance profile. But I cannot comment further than this on the BoP.”

Vasselon again described the Sebring BoP for the Toyota published last week ahead of the Prologue as a “big hit”. 

The front-axle hybrid system on the car can only be deployed at 190km/h after a change of rules for 2022. It follows the so-called ‘120 Rule’, named after the minimum speed at which a hybrid could previously go into four-wheel-drive mode, being moved from the technical regulations into the BoP. 

 

Vasselon has said that this has “a big effect” on the performance of the GR010, though he has refused to quantify that in terms of time lost.

Brendon Hartley qualified fourth in the #8 Toyota with a 1m49.217s, which was nearly two seconds off the pace of Nicolas Lapierre in the pole-winning Alpine A480 grandfathered LMP1 . 

Hartley ended up behind the LMP2 pole winner, while Jose Maria Lopez had a further two P2s ahead of him after he managed a time three tenths slower. 

Both Toyotas were on course to improve on their times when the session was red-flagged in the dying seconds after Fabio Scherer crashed his Inter Europol Oreca 07 at Turn 1.

Vasselon suggested that both cars would have had a chance to move ahead of P2 pole winner Nicklas Nielsen, who posted a 1m49.014s in the Pro/Am-entered AF Corse Oreca.

“The red flag has cost us the quickest laps,” he said. “The situation could have been a bit better, not one second or half a second, but a few tenths - we should have been looking better.

“We should have been in 1m49.0s, we had the chance to be in front of all the P2s, this was within reach.”

Vasselon was downbeat about Toyota’s chances in Friday’s 1000-mile race, saying that the advantage the GR010 had in terms of tyre wear throughout last season is unlikely to be a factor at this race as a result of the low levels of degradation seen at Sebring. 

“Normally we handle quite well our tyres, [but] here there is no big degradation,” he said.

“We are still preparing and trying to have strategy alternatives to recover the pure performance we are missing. We will try to catch an opportunity.”

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Watch WEC 1000 Miles of Sebring qualifying and the race live on Motorsport.tv (geo-restrictions may apply).

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