Brendon Hartley believes the next generation of top-tier endurance sportscar racing will bring a return to the pure racing model that was not seen in LMP1.
At the unveiling of Toyota’s new Le Mans Hypercar, nicknamed GR010, Hartley says the car is more pleasurable to drive.
He also hopes that taking away the high levels of downforce seen on the LMP1 cars and the need to save fuel across longer stints, will see racing be much closer than before.
“The fuel-saving aspect is very different from what we had before, so we’re attacking the braking phases more,” Hartley said.
“It’s a heavier car with less downforce, but it’s still very direct in steering.
“We’ve talked about the pleasure of driving it, all of us were all pleasantly surprised by the enjoyment we got.”
Toyota became the first manufacturer to reveal its 2021 World Endurance Championship challenger’s look and technical details.
The GR010 Hybrid uses a 3.5-litre V6 twin-turbo engine with a single electric motor-generator unit on the front axle.
The car’s four-wheel-drive powertrain is designed to produce no more than 680bhp, to keep within the 500kW limit.
Hartley believes these changes will force drivers to adopt a new driving style, especially in tricky circumstances such as dealing with traffic or in wet conditions.
“It’s going to be really different, the dynamic of how we approach the traffic,” the New Zealander said.
“It will be very important to put the perfect race together. More is going to come down to the driver.
“The way we accelerate will be different. Before, we had 1000bhp. We accelerated like a rocket and then we more or less flatlined and then decelerated before we braked.
“Now it’s a much more conventional power-curve and speed trace, we’re accelerating for the whole straight so that you won’t see us rocket past out of the corners. We’re now going to be more often diving in under the brakes.
“The LMP2 and GTE cars are going to have to adapt when they see us in the mirrors.
“Also, we’ve already done a bit of testing in the wet at Portimao.
“The four-wheel-drive and initial acceleration is the biggest topic. We can’t use our front-drive below a certain speed, so that makes things trickier in the wet.”
Hartley emphasised the importance of stringing together a perfect race, especially given the uncertainty on how close the competition will be.
“That said, we’ll have a much heavier car with less downforce. So, we won’t be braking much later than an LMP2 car either.
“There is still much to learn and management within a race scenario. That’s part of the job and part of the race.
“It’s going to be very important to put the perfect race together. Extracting performance becomes important. Not making a mistake, getting that risk and reward. More is going to come down to the driver and getting the race together.”
The first round of the 2021 WEC season and the debut outing for the Le Mans Hypercar is due to be at Sebring on 19 March.