No. 7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid LMP1 at the 2017 24 Hours of Le MansEnlarge Photo
With Porsche’s July announcement of an exit from the World Endurance Championship, both Toyota and organizers of the series were left with the dilemma of there going to be just one manufacturer in the premier LMP1 class next season.
The organizers, which include the ACO and FIA, have responded by changing the rules for the LMP1 class. The new rules, which will tide things over until a new format is introduced at the end of the decade, will see the introduction of a single LMP1 specification instead of the current twin format which accounts for hybrid (LMP1-H) and non-hybrid (LMP1) cars.
More powertrain options will also be introduced and costs reduced. Crucially, each team entered in the LMP1 class will have the same potential of performance independent of the powertrain used, via balance of performance rules.
The new rules will also see the WEC move to a split-year calendar starting next year. So a new 2018-2019 season with eight races will kick off in May 2018 and conclude in June 2019. For the 2019-2020 season, there will be just seven races, helping to reduce costs. Another change will be the 24 Hours of Le Mans becoming the final race of the season.
Whether Toyota will be competing in the next season is yet to be determined, a spokesperson for the automaker told Motorsport.com.
“Toyota is willing to participate in WEC 2018-19, but our commitment will depend on appropriate regulations being confirmed,” the spokesperson said.
As mentioned earlier, a new format will be introduced at the end of the decade. Organizers, who are hopeful of attracting more manufacturers, are looking to introduce the new format in time for the 2020-2021 season.
Similar to the 2018-2019 season, Toyota is still determining whether it will be competing in the new format once the 2020-2021 season comes around. However, the automaker’s motorsport boss has indicated that he’d like to stay.
“Once things have calmed down, we will make a decision, but we will probably continue to be racing in a new top-flight class which [the organizers] are looking to create,” Gazoo Racing boss Shigeki Tomoyama said at this week’s 2017 Tokyo Motor Show. “We are looking to stay—and only with the goal of winning.”