24h Le Mans
24 Hours of Le Mans – Pascal Vasselon: "A goal we had to achieve."
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing technical director Pascal Vasselon looks back on the 2020 24 Hours of Le Mans and discusses the Japanese manufacturer's Hypercar project.
What does this third consecutive win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans mean to your team?
"It was a goal we had to achieve. We didn't really have the choice and I think had we failed our mission, we wouldn't have had the courage to return to Japan."
Both TS050 Hybrids suffered some mechanical problems. How do you explain that?
"Only one of the two cars had a mechanical problem, the #7. The car had a crack on the right exhaust manifold. It was a problem of quality because the turbo-exhaust assembly had been validated for more than 10,000 kilometers, but broke after just under 4,000. The #8 went back to the garage as well, but that was more for what you might call a racing incident. His front right brake scoop was clogged with rubber debris from tyres and caught fire at one point. Unfortunately, we have very little control over race incidents. The exhaust trouble is clearly a quality problem which is being reviewed with our supplier."
Are you creating an experience at the 24 Hours of Le Mans that will be beneficial when you have to face Peugeot or other manufacturers in the future??
"Yes. All of these years at Le Mans since 2012 are building considerable experience. There are always lots of ways to have problems, but it's true that in terms of experience, year after year, we gain strength."
What would you like to say to the drivers of the #7 who once again came so close to victory?
"We told them we didn't have the words. We know very well that any explanations, any expression of compassion we could give them don't really mean much. I think it's terrible what has happened to them. We understand very well how they feel because nearly the same thing happened to us in 2014, 2016 and 2017. For those three years, we were the logical winner. We were fast, reliable and had good traffic management, but victory escaped us. They know their team is behind them."
Peugeot, Alpine, ByKOLLES...several important announcements were made during race week. What are your reactions?
"When constructors like Peugeot, Alpine and ByKOLLES confirm their involvement, it's always great news. We've led the whole regulatory structure in recent months precisely to attract competitors."
What can you tell us about your Le Mans Hypercar project?
"Having postponed the start of next season to March 2021 has allowed us to not only make up time lost due to the pandemic, but to add a small margin so that now we are moving forward with a feasible schedule. We are progressing toward our first outing in mid-October. That's perfectly satisfactory to be ready mid-March and make it to Sebring. Pour connaitre les spécifications exactes de la voiture, malheureusement il faudra attendre sa présentation pour les découvrir. Celle-ci aura lieu au début de l’année 2021."
24 Hours of Le Mans fans are passionate about the look and sound of the cars. Have you taken these features into account in your project?
"I would say yes and no. Yes because we want our car to have an impact on spectators, but we hope to have that positive impact also by having designed an aerodynamically efficient car. We haven't compromised the aerodynamic performance of the car for a given look. As for the engine sound, we also hope an efficient engine will produce an attractive sound."