During the four-session WEC Prologue test event that went down this week at Spa Francorchamps, a real problem reared its ugly head. The rollout for Hypercar has been fraught with numerous issues, but ultimately the result is that Toyota is the only company to have arrived to the first race with a Hypercar to race. And it’s extremely slow. Slower than LMP2.
I’m going to drop a bunch of numbers right here to provide some context for just how slow the new Toyota Hypercar competitor is...
2020 Spa 6 Hours Qualifying
LMP1 Rebellion Racing - 1:59.3 (pole)
LMP1 Toyota Gazoo - 1:59.62
LMP2 United Autosports - 2:01.8 (pole)
2021 Spa WEC Prologue Test
LMP2 G-Drive Racing - 2:04.1 (fastest of the test)
Hypercar Toyota Gazoo - 2:04.6
Did you catch that? LMP2 was significantly slowed ahead of the 2021 season, gaining a little over two seconds per lap, but the gap from LMP1 times last year to the new Hypercar class this year is a massive five seconds or more. At Spa!
This wasn’t a one time thing, either. Toyota only managed to run the fastest lap time in the fourth session of the test, getting trounced soundly by LMP2 runners in the other three. And the session Toyota managed to set a fast lap time, it was the slowest of the four test top times, running well slower than at least a handful of LMP2 runners over the event. This doesn’t bode well for the class, the car, Toyota, or the FIA. What happens if an Aurus Gibson LMP2 wins overall at Le Mans this year? Will anyone care?
The situation is even worse over at Alpine, which moved “up” from an LMP2 effort last year to a grandfathered-in Rebellion R13 LMP1 this year. For only this year LMP1s will be allowed to run in Hypercar, but with modifications. For example, the Alpine car was handed a 220 pound weight ballast ahead of the Spa round this weekend. Imagine moving from an LMP2 to an LMP1 and being significantly slower. I’ll let Karun Chandhock’s tweet provide the necessary context.
Toyota Gazoo Racing director Rob Leupen commented that he was surprised by the pace of the P2 runners, and urged the WEC to “look at” the whole situation ahead of the first race of the season this Saturday, also at Spa.
“A bit surprised about the speed of the LMP2s of course,” Leupen told Sportscar365. “This is something where we should be a bit ahead of, and we find out that they are quicker than us here on a lap.
“Maybe on a long stint we might get the edge, but this is not what we have expected. We have to see what’s going to happen after the Prologue if something is going to happen. It’s a learning curve.”
He later concluded “I don’t think we can do much about this.” meaning he doesn’t believe the Toyota GR010 can get significantly faster within the current ruleset. It seems to me that he’s saying the WEC hasn’t done enough to slow the LMP2 runners below the Hypercar class. It’s clear that they have bungled up the ruleset, because there’s no way this car will be able to balance with IMSA’s upcoming LMDh regulations when they roll out in 2022. If Hypercar is slower than LMP2, what’s the point in building a 9-figure race program around the category?
This whole class has been a debacle from start to finish, but maybe it’ll be alright when Peugeot and Ferrari join in a couple of years, and the Glickenhaus car finally gets its shit together and shows up for a race.
Then again, Toyota could just be sandbagging this whole thing, and everything Rob said is bullshit. We’ll have to wait until this weekend’s 6 hour race to truly find out.