Toyota working on third Le Mans LMP1 entry for 2017

Toyota's World Endurance Championship team director Rob Leupen says the Japanese manufacturer is hoping to raise the budget to run a third entry in the 2017 Le Mans 24 Hours.

Speaking to Motorsport.com at Paul Ricard on the eve of the Prologue test days, Leupen said the topic was up for discussion with the marque’s senior staff in Japan.

“We hope to add third car [at Le Mans],” said Leupen. “It depends on the budget, because we have many new developments this year.

“We have this discussion every year with Japan. But we expect to have maybe a third car next year.

“We have better budgets than we had last year. We also started earlier with the development program than we anticipated, and you need money to do that. This doesn’t mean we are walking around with bags full of money now.

“If we were to make compromises on the development, and this would result in losing a second at Le Mans, then that would leave us empty handed. Then we know that we are at the back.”

Talking about a timeline for the extra car, Leupen said: "Officially we will know in October, but I think we will get an indication around about July.” 

The Kobayashi factor

Leupen hailed the addition of ex-Formula 1 driver Kamui Kobayashi, after the retirement of marque stalwart Alex Wurz at the end of last year.

“This year we have a Japanese driver in both our cars [Kazuki Nakajima and Kobayashi], and possibly we have a third car next year with also a Japanese driver [Ryo Hirakawa, the team's reserve], who is currently being trained by us,” he said.

“I think we have a really fast driver with Kamui, a driver who still has to learn a lot though.

“Endurance driving is different than single-seater racing. But someone who’s quick from himself and who’s a real team player, will fit very well in this team.”

Promising signs in testing

Toyota completely overhauled its LMP1 design for 2016, and early signs are that it’s in a good position to compete with rivals Porsche and Audi this season.

“The conclusions are that we potentially have a good car,” Leupen added. “I believe that the drivers are quite happy as well.

“They say this new car drives better than last year’s. Of course, there are still a lot of question marks with regards to the new powertrain.”

Elaborating on the differences, Leupen said: "We are using a battery now, which is different than a super capacitor. It involves different processes and results into a different way of working, as you are switching from one technology to another.

"The people in the team need to get used to working with the new technology and feel secure with it. That are quite important steps that we need to make.

"But the motivation is high. Long nights, long days, but that’s good.”

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About this article
Series WEC
Event Prologue
Track Circuit Paul Ricard
Drivers Kamui Kobayashi , Kazuki Nakajima
Teams Toyota Racing
Article type Breaking news