Change in regs deals initial blow to Toyota title challenge

An apparently minor change in sporting regulations for the FIA World Endurance Championship has dealt a major blow to Toyota’s quest for the FIA WEC manufacturers’ title and will put both the Japanese constructor and Porsche on their toes throughout the season.

The #7 Toyota TS050 of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María Lopez was heavily delayed during the six-hour race, with the car suffering problems with its anti-roll bar in the early stages before Lopez, making his debut for the Japanese manufacturer, was caught on the wrong tyres in a rain showed and careered into the wall at Copse. Despite evidently being in pain, the Argentinian brought the stricken LMP1 car back to the pits for repairs, causing it to fall behind almost the entire field. Due to the delays, the car finished 23rd overall and fourth in the LMP1 class.

Under last season’s rules, the car would have been awarded ten points in the manufacturers’ championship for the fourth-placed finish. However, a small change in the sporting regulations means that manufacturer points are no longer awarded according to finishing positions in LMP1 – in fact, the overall LMP classification is what counts. As a result, Toyota only gathered 26.5 points last weekend: 25 + 1 for the #8 car’s victory and pole position, and 0.5 points for the #7 car’s 13th-place finish in the LMP1 and LMP2 classification.

By way of comparison, at last year’s Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps the #5 Toyota TS050 suffered engine issues in the latter stages while leading the race and was unable to take any further part. However, as it had completed the minimum distance required to score points, the team ingeniously sent Kazuki Nakajima out on the final lap of the race to complete a six-minute tour using hybrid power only. This ensured that the #5 car took the chequered flag and scored ten points (as the fourth works LMP1 car to cross the line) in the manufacturers’ championship – even though it crossed the line as the 17th prototype, behind both Rebellion Racing cars and the ByKolles entry in LMP1 and the entire LMP2 field.

This change in regulations could have a significant impact on the championship moving through the season and will punish teams and cars much more heavily if they suffer any issues, especially the gap between LMP1 and LMP2 has become much closer. Indeed, under last season’s rules Toyota would be leading the championship at the current time instead of Porsche.

Visit the standings section for a full rundown of the championship standings.

Images © WEC-Magazin