Toyota optimistic race-simulation testing can make up for missing Spa race

The Toyota team will be well drilled for the race debut of its TS030 hybrid prototype at next month's Le Mans 24 Hours despite missing this weekend's Spa event, according to the project's technical director Pascal Vasselon

Toyota optimistic race-simulation testing can make up for missing Spa race

The team was forced to withdraw from the Spa six-hour race following a testing accident which destroyed the first chassis during testing at Paul Ricard in April.

Toyota has now built a second car up from a new monocoque, complete with the latest aero package which was briefly displayed at Spa before being packed off for further testing at Magny Cours, and Vasselon said that while not racing at Spa was a setback, the team would still complete the required running before Le Mans.

"What you can do is really operate the car like in a race," he said to AUTOSPORT. "In testing, as soon as something goes totally right, you stop, you take your time. When you do a race simulation, you try to handle all problems - if problems happen - like in a race.

"It puts the team under pressure, it's good training, and it reveals what has to improve. It's never completely representative of a race situation of course, that's why we wanted to race. But in testing it's the best you can do."

Vasselon admitted that resource constraints meant that the team will not have time to build up a third monocoque to act as a spare at Le Mans, and that the drivers would have to protect the two cars through the event.

"Simply because our initial 2012 programme was not designed to be a championship attack but a learning year where we decided to do a couple of races, because races are the best for learning," he said. "We knew we only had one monocoque, then it was accelerated. But unlike the others who are using suppliers, we are manufacturing in our team 80 per cent of the car. This includes the monocoque and we can only do one at a time and it is as simple as that. We cannot suddenly employ 50 people we have to spread the workload."

The Frenchman added that it remained unclear whether Toyota would complete the build of the second car in time for it to run at the Le Mans pre-test on the first weekend of June.

"It looks very difficult," he said. "For the full Le Mans race, we are now confident of having a second car. For the test day, it's still not comfortable. Of course, we would prefer to."

Vasselon also accepted that winning Le Mans at its first attempt using a hybrid was not a priority for Toyota, but being the fastest car with the technology was.

"It's the target of a race to win," he said, "But we don't have to win Le Mans as a target this year.

"We want to be competitive. Our target is to be the fastest hybrid car. Then to be at the end of the race as the fastest, that is another step. It's not our target this year."

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Author Simon Strang
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