Toyota targets beating Le Mans distance record
Toyota is eyeing the Le Mans 24 Hours distance record as it bids for a first victory in the event this year.
The Japanese manufacturer believes that the record distance set by Audi in 2010 is likely to be surpassed if the conditions allow and it manages a trouble-free run with one of its two TS050 Hybrids.
Rob Leupen, race director of the Toyota LMP1 team, told Motorsport.com: "You need to set some targets: can the lap time be improved and then can we increase the distance record?
"It was speculated that it might be possible last year, so if we have smooth run the distance record can come as a consequence. These are targets that engineers like."
Leupen suggested that the pressure of targeting the distance record would be good for the only factory team on the grid in LMP1 in the 2018/19 FIA World Endurance Championship season.
"This pressure we need: it is good for the engineers and good for the mechanics," he said.
"I think the general pressure is in the end not to have the distance record or another lap record, it is to win; it has to be."
Toyota Motorsport GmbH technical director Pascal Vasselon explained that the team would not reduce its pace should it have a clear advantage over the non-hybrid privateer opposition in P1.
"If we were to ask ourselves would we drop our pace if we have an advantage, the answer would be no," he said.
"These cars are designed to work at a given speed and this is where they are safest; whether the competition is 30 seconds behind or one lap doesn't change anything.
"If you start to drop the speed, you lose the temperature in the tyres, the grip and you recover more energy and saturate your battery — we have to keep the car in its working window."
The distance record is held by the Audi R15-plus TDI driven by Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas and Mike Rockenfeller, which completed 397 laps or 3,362.05 miles.
That surpassed the previous record set in 1971 by Gijs van Lennep and Helmut Marko in a Porsche 917K prior to the addition of the chicanes on the Mulsanne Straight and at the Dunlop Curve, and one year before the Porsche Curves were built.
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