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WEC Portimao

Toyota requests WEC procedure changes after FIA-mandated sensor fails

Toyota has called for procedural changes in the World Endurance Championship after one of its cars lost the chance of a result at Portimao with an FIA-required sensor failure.

#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 - Hybrid: Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez

Pascal Vasselon, Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe technical director, argued that it was unfair that the #7 GR010 HYBRID Le Mans Hypercar was forced to make an 11-minute pitstop after torque sensor mandated by the FIA and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest on the left rear driveshaft failed early in last weekend’s Portimao 6 Hours. 

The sensors measuring the power delivered through each driveshaft are a key component of the Hypercar category, but Vasselon pointed out that there are defaults in place that would have allowed the necessary data to be accrued without pitting the GR010 to replace the driveshaft.

Vasselon revealed that Toyota had asked race control if the #7 car shared by Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez could continue in this mode but that permission had been denied.

This left the team with no option but to replace the driveshaft early in the second hour.

Neither the FIA nor the ACO has so far commented on the matter, but it is understood that the decision to decline Toyota permission to go into a default mode hinged on the amount of data that had been accrued when the failure occurred.

"We have to find better solutions to not force cars to park and repair for the failure of a sensor that is nothing to do with the team," he said.

"It was a harsh decision I would say, to ask us to repair it because it would have been possible to continue running.

"There are other ways to monitor [power delivery] but they have been denied; there are default sensors that are able to be correlated."

#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 - Hybrid: Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez

#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 - Hybrid: Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Vasselon argued that the issue was “very serious” because even with what he described as a “remarkable” pitstop in which the entire left-rear corner was changed in only 11 minutes it meant “the race was dead” for #7.

The car ended up seven laps down in ninth place at the chequered flag.

Toyota won the second round of the 2023 WEC on Sunday with the #8 car driven by Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa, but Vasselon stressed that it "could not [be] happy with the weekend when one car only scores two points".

Vasselon conceded that he had to "take part of the blame" for the procedures currently in place because he is part of the relevant technical working group, but he said he would be pushing for changes.

"It is something that we have to better prepare for in the technical working groups to be able to keep cars running even when mandatory sensor failures," he said.

The #94 Peugeot 9X8 that finished fifth in the hands of Loic Duval, Nico Muller and Gustavo Menezes also suffered a failure of one of the FIA sensors in the closing stages of the race.

It continued running, but at reduced power and therefore pace, to stay within the prescribed torque curve laid down in the Balance of Performance.

There was no official statement from the FIA on the matter, but it is understood that the decision to decline Toyota permission to go into a default mode hinged on the amount of data that had been accrued when the failure occurred.

Vasselon insisted that it was still possible to put new procedures in place ahead of the Le Mans 24 Hours, the centrepiece round of the WEC on 10/11 June.

The cars have run driveshaft torque sensors since the introduction of the Hypercar class in 2021 and the issues encountered at Portimao are understood to be the first failures.

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