Toyota is set to bring forward plans to overhaul its LMP1 project as it heads into the 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours as a considerable underdog to rivals Porsche and Audi, just twelve months after it was deemed the favourite.
Though the Japanese manufacturer failed to claim its much vaunted maiden Le Mans win, despite qualifying on pole position and leading for a large stretch, it did comfortably go on to break Audi's dominance over the full World Endurance Championship with its title win.
However, though Toyota have made progress like-for-like with the 2015 version of its TS040 Hybrid, a significant leap in performance from Audi and Porsche means it heads into this year's endurance classic having qualified six seconds off the pole position time.
Coupled to a lacklustre start in WEC too, though Toyota has stretched its resources to focus on its burgeoning World Rally Championship return, it is now looking to bring forward LMP1 plans it had originally earmarked for 2017. This will include the development of a new powertrain, as well as attempt to move from the 4MJ class to the 8MJ class, which would bring it into line with Porsche.
“Definitely we will not quit the World Endurance Championship,” said team director Rob Leupen. “We will come with a new powertrain, likely with 8MJ and a new engine, so we will stay beyond next year.”
Indeed, technical director Pascal Vasselon told Crash.net that Toyota has been forced to change its policy of attempting to match Audi and Porsche on limited resources, despite its success last year, saying this season shows it cannot hope to compete going forward otherwise.
“We need to review our plans clearly. Toyota wants to be in WEC and Toyota initially wanted to be there with limited resources and we have always been competitive and last year we were dominant. It is hard to claim we are lacking resources when we are dominant, but now it is more visible and now we are left a bit behind. So we are reviewing our plans.”
With this in mind, Toyota insists it will not follow the approach of Audi, Porsche and now Nissan of bringing a third car into the mix in an effort to speed up development, instead preferring to concentrate resources on just two cars.
“Our strategy will remain like this,” said team president Toshio Sato. “We will use the budget to do more development and get a faster car. The money for a third car we will use to develop the other cars.”