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Toyota "on the back foot" for WEC Spa after practice issues, Hartley crash

Toyota claims it is going into Saturday’s Spa round of the World Endurance Championship on the back foot after experiencing technical issues in practice and Brendon Hartley’s accident in qualifying.

Toyota Mechanics,

Paul Foster

Pascal Vasselon, Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe technical director, described the opening two days of the Spa 6 Hours meeting “as not our best race weekend so far”, despite Kamui Kobayashi taking pole position in the #7 Toyota GR010 HYBRID.

Vasselon explained that the lack of running for its pair of Le Mans Hypercars during the trio of free practice sessions will compromise its race.

“Starting from Free Practice 1, we lost quite a bit of time because of a system issue,” he said.

“This has really put us on the back foot.

“This year the tyres are so different compared with last year’s [as a result on the ban on pre-heating] that only the test sessions with the 2023 rubber matter and we did not test here.

“We needed to run here and because of this issue in FP1 and the high number of red flags [through free practice] we could not run much somehow.”

Michelin has been granted permission to supply all three 2023 specifications of slick tyre at Spa rather than the two normally made available to the Hypercar teams for a regular WEC round.

Vasselon said that Toyota remained “short of mileage to make an educated tyre choice” between the different specs for the race.

Hartley’s accident on his outlap in qualifying in the #8 Toyota will result in a compromised tyre strategy for the car he shares with Sebastien Buemi and Ryo Hirakawa, according to Vasselon.

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

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

Photo by: Paul Foster

The incident in which Hartley spun on cold rubber at the top of Raidillon resulted in a number of flat-spotted tyres, which will not be able to be used in the six-hour race.

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A total of 18 tyres are allocated to each car for qualifying and the race, and the accident means that #8 could potentially have as few as 14 available for the six hours.

“We still don’t know how many tyres have been flat spotted because we haven’t recovered the car yet,” Vasselon said in the immediate aftermath of qualifying on Friday.

“If we have lost four tyres it will be extremely difficult to manage seven stints with three and a half sets.”

The #8 will start from 36th place on the 38-car grid after failing to set a time in qualifying.

Vasselon explained that the software issues that limited Toyota’s running on Thursday were linked to new systems demanded for this race by rulemakers the FIA and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest.

“We had several new controls requested by the FIA and ACO, and one of these did not go well - it is our fault,” he said.

He stressed that the new systems were not linked to the introduction of new procedures put in place to allow a car to keep running in the event of a driveshaft torque sensor failing.

The #8 Toyota managed only 18 laps in opening practice and #7 19. That compared with the 29 laps completed by each of the two Ferrari 499P LMHs.

The Spa 6 Hours, round three of the 2023 WEC, begins at 12:45 local time.

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