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It’s fair to say that Audi Sport is enjoying a dominating year in the World Endurance Challenge. An exclamation point was added to that statement following the recent round at Spa where Audi achieved a perfect 1-2-3 result ahead of two rival Toyotas. As a result, Toyota has lodged a formal complaint against Audi’s dominance.
Toyota claims they will be unable to challenge Audi at next month’s 24 Hours of Le Mans unless there are changes to the engine regulations in time for the race says a report from AutoSport Magazine from May 8th.
For that story, Toyota’s technical director Pascal Vasselon stated, “We are not happy with the situation and if we are not happy it is because we know we cannot fight them. As it is, our chances at Le Mans are very, very small.”
He continued. “We consider that an evolution of the Balance of Power is needed. The process [to change it] exists, it is underway and we will have to see what it delivers.”
The story also mentioned that Vasselon estimates the Audi R18 e-tron quattro now has a power advantage over the Toyota TS030 Hybrid in the area of 70-80 hp.
In the same story, Audi Sport boss Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich responded, “How can someone come to the first race without their new car and then bring (only) one to the second race and complete only half the race and ask for a change in the Balance of Power? The new Toyota, which was doing its first race, was at least comparable to our Le Mans car.”
Ullrich’s comments refer to cars Toyota has chosen to field this year. The team skipped the 12 Hours of Sebring – a race not sanctioned by the WEC but one where Audi logged plenty of data with one 2013 spec car and one 2012 spec car. During the WEC’s first round at Silverstone Toyota brought out last year’s cars and at Spa only one of two fielded TSO30s was built to 2013 spec. Further, that lone new car failed to complete more than half the race.
Vasselon points a clear strategy change by Audi from last season to this season. The Balance of Power ruling over the winter saw the engine restrictor for diesels reduced by 3%. The R18s were theoretically slowed, but a significant change in fuel strategy and engine mapping has allowed Audi to adapt most effectively according to Toyota.
In 2012 Audi had much greater efficiency. Vasselon points out that Audi was running 3-4 more laps per fuel tank than were the Toyotas. This year he estimates they are running two laps less. Rather than optimizing the cars for efficiency and saving the time in the pits, Audi has changed its game to run with more power in order to save that time on the track – not a common plan for Ingolstadt, but one that seems to be working. Vasselon estimates the Audi R18 e-tron quattros are consuming more than 20% more fuel thanks to the change.
That first report got more contentious. By its end Vasselon was accusing Audi Sport of sandbagging, in particular with the R18 “Long Tail”.
This isn’t the first time Audi has had a competitor lodge a complaint against aggressive strategic moves. Peugeot lodged formal complaint against the aerodynamically otherworldly R15 TDI back in 2009 -one reason for the significant redevelopment of the R15 plus and why Audi missed the 2010 12 Hours of Sebring.
Here’s the thing about Audi and Le Mans. They take it more seriously than any other and have done so for the last decade. They are relentless in their pursuit of technology and effective strategy and are not afraid to make that sort of financial commitment. They believe, as do we, that overall victory at Le Mans is for the best of the best. If you’re going to beat Audi on those roads in the French countryside, then you better bring your A-game.
Toyota has shown they are capable of competition at such a level, but it remains to be seen whether they have the heart or financial commitment to land a hard fought win. Rule changes shouldn’t serve as substitute for such commitment. Not running Sebring is less of an issue, but not running new cars in the first two races and then making this claim puts them on some fairly thin ice. Perhaps they need to step up their commitment as things are only going to get harder when Porsche enters the fray next year.
Read the original story from AutoSport Magazine HERE.