Balance falls against Toyota’s bid for six

Did politics play a part in creating racing drama?



Nine days before the 100th anniversary edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours came a groan-inducing surprise: a late change to the Balance of Performance.

It didn’t just affect Toyota. While the GR010 Hybrids were handed 37kg extra, the Ferrari 499Ps gained 24kg. But it was Toyota that felt the burden of injustice the most.

Akio Toyoda, outgoing president and grandson of the company’s founder, sent a clear message to the ACO in a good-humoured reference at the Le Mans organiser’s own pre-race press conference, as he revealed Toyota’s big-statement H2 hydrogen concept for the future. “The other major benefit of hydrogen is just how light it is – less BoP!” he quipped.

Despite the smile, there was no mistaking the cold fury at the advantage all at Toyota felt Ferrari had been handed. In a translated interview with an internal publication, Toyoda said: “I thought, do you want other teams to win that much? Everyone in our team thinks so, and maybe a lot of fans thought so.

“Audi withdrew from Le Mans in 2016, and Porsche has been gone since 2018, and only Toyota has remained in the top category of Le Mans. We were very happy that other manufacturers finally returned. I wanted drivers, engineers and mechanics to race in a place where they could look ahead to the next 100 years. When I was watching the qualifiers, I thought ‘I lost to politics’.”

The race turned out to be among the best in recent memory, with all five major Hypercar manufacturers taking turns to lead. But the question posed by the BoP controversy was,
at what cost? DS