Untouchable in FIA-WEC last year, the Japanese manufacturer has decided to fit its GR010 Hybrids this year with Michelin tires of different sizes. Here’s why.
The saying: ” Never change a winning team was not in use at Toyota during the off-season. Hisatake Murata has been replaced as Team Principal par Kamui Kobayashi et Ryo Hirakawa replaced in the seat of the n°8 his compatriot Kazuki Nakajimanow vice-president of Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe.
But this is not the only change made by the troops of the technical director Pascal Vasselon. And for good reason, the GR010s are now equipped with Michelin tires of different sizes of those used last season, which had seen them take six victories in as many outings.
The regulations drawn up by the ACO and the FIA stipulate that a Hypercar homologated before 2023 enjoying a non-permanent all-wheel drive can opt for two different tires : either 31/71-18 “squared”, in other words at the four wheels, or 29/71-18 at the front and 34/71-18 at the rear. Logically pure propulsion (which will be part of the LMDh) can only choose the second solution, because it is to pass all the power on the rear wheels.
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In 2021, Toyota’s first year of competition in the LMH, the latter was shod with the same four 31” wide tires. But the Japanese team finally decided to change tack, judging that the mounts used until then were not the best suited for their future in the championship.
« This year we opted for the 29-34 option, explains Pascal Vasselon. This resulted in some modifications to the bodywork to optimize the cooling of the car, and to maintain aerodynamic performance within the homologation window. We hope this change will resolve rear tire management issues that we met last season. »
A balance that changes everything
The “management problems” mentioned are based on the fact that the more power and aero you have on the rear wheels, the more quickly you degrade the tires. However, the first version of the WEC technical regulations allowed the passage to four-wheel drive – and therefore the triggering of the electric motor at the front – from 120 km / h in the dry (150 km / h with rain tires) , which made it possible to relieve the rear.
But this value is now part of the Balance of Performance (BoP) variables, a ploy supposed to give everyone a chance to fight for the win. Today, it appears that never again will all-wheel drive be allowed at 120 km/h (it would rather be from a minimum of 160 km/h), and this with the aim of minimizing the advantage gained over the propulsions… like all the LMDhs which are on approach or the Glickenhaus, which does not have no energy recovery system.
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Thereby, this weekend, at the 1000 miles of Sebring, the GR010 Hybrid will only benefit from its electric motor and therefore its all-wheel drive from 190 km/h, whatever the track conditions! A big blow to the reigning champion, whose power transmitted to the front axle will be rarer and less, unlike that transmitted to the rear axle. So this explains it…
But another change was made to the regulations, namely that all cars in the Hypercar category – LMH and LMDh – homologated after 2022 will have no choice but to adopt this tire assembly. Result, only the Peugeot 9X8, which fixed this choice very early in its specifications, will be equipped with 31/71-18 tires on its four wheels.
Photo : Rick Dole / Michelin
Finally, it is also worth mentioning that the BoP also forces Toyota to carry 4 kg more ballast than at the last 24 Hours of Le Mans and therefore 30 more than Bahrain, 2021 campaign final. Will this impact the hierarchy in place? We find it hard to believe as the Japanese giant is evolving a notch above the current competition. Competition led again in 2022 by Alpine, whose A480 has also changed rubbers. After scouring Michelin’s remaining stock of Non-Hybrid LMP1 tyres, the latter now benefits from Hypercar tires in 31/71-18 “squared” just for this season.
Who from Glickenhaus, Alpine or Toyota will win the second edition of the 1000 Miles of Sebring? Answer tomorrow at the end of the day.
Photo : Rick Dole / Michelin
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