Toyota drivers apprehensive by WEC rivals’ in depth Sebring testing
The Japanese producer has unveiled a revised model of its GR010 Hybrid Le Mans Hypercar for the 2023 season because it gears as much as defend its WEC crown from new Hypercar class rivals within the type of Ferrari, Porsche and Cadillac.
Each Porsche and Cadillac have already got a race beneath their belts with their new LMDh designs after participating in January’s Daytona 24 Hours.
However the quantity of testing that the 2 IMSA marques, plus Ferrari, which has opted to comply with Toyota down the LMH path for its top-flight return, have been in a position to do as new WEC producers has additionally induced consternation.
Toyota has thus far examined its revised challenger at Paul Ricard and Aragon, however will solely be getting its first operating at Sebring at this weekend’s official Prologue take a look at.
Kobayashi, who’s as soon as once more joined aboard the #7 Toyota by Jose Maria Lopez and Mike Conway this season, is anxious that the group’s comparative lack of take a look at mileage could possibly be a hindrance for the Sebring 1000 Miles on March 17.
“I might say the brand new automobile feels higher,” Kobayashi informed Autosport. “Among the issues we had with the primary model of the automobile, we expect we’ve improved.
“However it’s arduous to say as a result of we’re testing at tracks that we all know properly, and which might be utterly totally different to Sebring. Additionally, we’ve no [tyre] blankets and that adjustments issues.
“It’s clear additionally we’ve had much less take a look at periods than the opposite producers. The opposite producers have been to Sebring loads, greater than sufficient I feel. Some drivers can drive there with their eyes closed!”
Porsche and Cadillac accomplished endurance assessments with their LMDh vehicles at Sebring final 12 months as a part of their build-up to the 2023 season, and had been additionally in motion for final month’s IMSA-sanctioned take a look at on the Florida airfield venue.
Ferrari in the meantime has undertaken a pair of two-day assessments of its personal at Sebring, one in January and the opposite in February, with its model new 499P LMH.
Requested particularly if he felt Toyota was not the favorite heading into the season, Kobayashi replied: “Final 12 months we didn’t win at Sebring. We all know it’s a troublesome monitor for us.
“For certain we’ve to enhance and work arduous. The opposite producers have extra expertise at Sebring on the finish of the day.”
Hirakawa, who shares the #8 Toyota with Sebastien Buemi and Brendon Hartley for his second season within the WEC, supplied an analogous evaluation to Kobayashi.
“I feel everybody made an enormous enchancment within the winter, but it surely’s arduous to say till we race collectively,” stated Hirakawa. “We had been testing at totally different tracks [compared to Sebring], so the efficiency is troublesome to evaluate.
“We’ll solely discover out the place we’re at Sebring, which for us is the hardest monitor on the calendar. Ferrari and these guys have examined loads there, so we have to catch up.
“We’ve got to do our job the identical as final 12 months. We don’t need to lose to [our new rivals], however we’ve to belief our historical past of what we did and hopefully we’ll be okay.”
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