Toyota explains why it didn't change all #7 car's tyres
Toyota LMP1 technical director Pascal Vasselon has explained why the team opted not to change all four of the tyres on its #7 car when it sustained a late puncture in the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Victory was snatched from the #7 Toyota crew of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez just one hour from the end of the race, when Lopez picked up a left-rear puncture while holding a commanding lead.
However, a faulty sensor meant the Japanese squad believed it was the front-right tyre that had deflated, and it changed only this one before sending Lopez back on his way.
That decision effectively handed victory to the drivers of the #8 TS050 Hybrid, Fernando Alonso, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima, for a second successive year.
Asked why Toyota didn't simply elect to replace all four tyres when Lopez first pitted, Vasselon said: "The option exists, but you have to change for a set that has done four stints, which is not ideal when you want to be safe at the end.
"That’s why we put only one used tyre and not four, before when the tyre is very warm, it is more likely to get punctures. It’s all about risk management.
"In this case it would have been much better to change all four, but it’s not something you do usually, because you don’t want to do the last stints with tyres that are already four stints [old]."
He added: "The drivers of #7 have to accept what has happened, even if it’s very, very frustrating for them and for the team as well, because we were all very happy with the ranking that was in place just one hour before the end."
Non-hybrids "faster" at certain stages
Toyota once again dominated at Le Mans against no factory opposition in the LMP1 class, with the best privateer car, SMP Racing's #11 BR Engineering BR1, ending up six laps down.
That compared with the 12 laps by which Toyota beat the non-hybrids last year, and Vasselon was keen to stress how much progress his team's opponents had made in a year.
"Considering we have no opposition is lacking respect for the non-hybrids, who at several moments in the race were faster than us," said Vasselon.
"At many moments in the race, they were just faster than us, SMP and Rebellion. Apparently over the distance we put things together a bit better, but they are clearly improving.
"Then, clearly we have lost Le Mans three times when we were dominating [in 2014, '16 and '17]. Three times, performance was not our problem.
"Winning Le Mans is always something special and not easy to achieve."
Winners #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050: Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima, Fernando Alonso
Photo by: Rainier Ehrhardt
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