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Toyota: Porsche, Cadillac have "slight advantage" for Sebring WEC

Toyota believes LMDh manufacturers Porsche and Cadillac will have a “slight advantage” when the FIA World Endurance Championship season begins at Sebring next month.

#02 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac DPi: Earl Bamber, Alex Lynn, Richard Westbrook, #7 Porsche Penske Motorsport, Porsche 963, GTP: Mathieu Jaminet, Michael Christensen, Nick Tandy

Toyota will enter the third year of WEC’s Hypercar era with an updated version of the GR010 Hybrid that won the last two titles, but will have to do without tyre warmers as part of a change in regulations for 2023.

Both Porsche and Cadillac have extensive data about how cold Michelin tyres perform on outlaps when they debuted their respective 963 and V-LMDh cars at the Daytona 24 Hours last month, with the latter also having prior experience from its time in the IMSA SportsCar Championship’s DPi era.

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Porsche and Cadillac were also able to run their respective LMDh cars at the Sebring International Speedway last week during a combined test organised by IMSA, in a further boost to their preparations for the opening round of the WEC at the same venue on 17 March.

This is why Toyota believes it may have to play catch up to rivals Porsche and Cadillac at Sebring, as it braces itself for increased competition in the WEC’s top class after years of limited opposition from fully-fledged manufacturer teams.

“We were testing last week, we were testing with the tyres and without the tyre heating system, so I think we gained a lot of experience in the last two tests that we have done,” Toyota team director Rob Leupen said in an online WEC press call.

“I think the rest we have to make up. Both Cadillac and Porsche might have a slight advantage here and we need to catch up. 

“Therefore, we have done our homework. I would not be too concerned about it. If they have an edge there, we will need to push.”

Porsche Penske Motorsport chief Jonathan Diuguid admitted that the German manufacturer has benefitted from competing at Daytona last month, as running the car in an actual race exposed a number of technical issues with the 963 that were not evident from pre-season testing.

#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

However, Diuguid also believes Porsche doesn’t have any net advantage for Sebring, as Toyota’s past experience in the WEC will also count in its favour when the two manufacturers go head-to-head in the series for the first time since 2017.

“We learn as much as we can every time the car goes racing,” Diuguid said. “We all put a lot of testing miles in. 

“Whatever advantage we may have had from testing and racing in Daytona, other manufacturers have advantages from racing in WEC for prior seasons. 

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“Racing is quite dynamic and unpredictable. I think any advantage one organisation or platform or a group may have is balanced out by something another group of teams has. 

“I think the biggest thing is in Daytona we saw great racing between a lot of different approaches to the same problem, and the WEC championships expands on that with two different platforms, which is two types of regulations approaching the same problem. 

“So I'm excited about the opportunity to race with more manufacturers and more teams to see how it stacks up.”

In response to Toyota’s comments, General Motors sportscar racing manager Laura Wontrop Klauser highlighted the peculiar nature of the Sebring track, explaining how it has little in common with the road course at the Daytona International Speedway.

“Daytona, as a track, is very different from Sebring and then the other circuits that we’ll be going to the rest of the WEC season,” she said.

“While any time you turn the car on you learn, there are still things you continue to learn, especially as we race at Sebring. Many of us have tested there but it will be nice to do the proper racing as well and see what we still need to know about the car. 

“Sebring is one of the best places in the world to find out how reliable your vehicle is, so it will be exciting to see what things look like at the end of the races.”

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