24h Le Mans
20/11/2019 - 18:01

Pascal Vasselon (Toyota): "We were not entitled to manipulate the result"

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing technical director Pascal Vasselon attended the recent screening of the official 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans film. He discussed the outcome of the 87th running of the race and Peugeot's return to endurance racing.
Pascal Vasselon (Toyota): "We were not entitled to manipulate the result"

Did you enjoy the official 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans film?

"I particularly enjoyed it because it's the first time I've come and not had to explain why and how we lost the race. This screening was great fun for me."

What do you remember about the debriefing after the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans when the #5 Toyota was forced to retire just a few minutes from the chequered flag?

"That day, we didn't do the debriefing. We waited a little while and I think when something like that happens, you don't debrief, you avoid it."

How was the debriefing after winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans different?

"This year, we managed to spoil the finish with the flat tyre suffered by the #7 Toyota. It was obvious on the podium that no one was happy. Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López were devastated, understandably. Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Fernando Alonso clearly seemed not to feel they'd completely earned the victory. That evening, we didn't really celebrate like we did in 2018. The #7 drivers remained disappointed, but the rest of the team came around in the following days."

"We knew there were decisions pending at Peugeot, so this is a wonderful surprise."
Pascal Vasselon, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing

Can you discuss the flat tyre that affected the #7 Toyota at the end of the race?

"It's one of those things that disrupts the race right when you think it's clinched. There are important things to understand. We had a problem with the reversal of tire pressure sensors. The right front sensor was connected to the right rear. It was a mistake and we've since put measures in place to ensure it never happens again. It is important to acknowledge the reactions of the engineer and the driver of the #7, José María López, were remarkable given the problem. They proved their professionalism, presence of mind and lucidity for people watching an extraordinary win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans slip through their fingers."

Did you consider switching the postions of the two cars?

"What stands out for those having seen the film "Le Mans 66" is that it shows in a race like Le Mans, there's a phase when you're battling with other competitors and then sometimes you manage to dominate and find yourself leading with two or three other cars. That's when the real trouble can start. When you're dominating a race, you have to manage the positions of the other cars. We saw in "Le Mans 66" that that was a huge part of the story, and for us the last hour of the race this year was extremely dificult because within our team, we put a lot of energy and determination for the best to win. When we were faced with the #7's flat tyre, we really considered switching the positions of the two cars because, we felt, as did everyone, that the #7 should win. Thankfully, we analysed the problem and arrived at this conclusion: as unfortunate as it was, it was solely about the #7 and sporting rules had to apply. We weren't entitled to manipulate the result. Even though it was painful, cooler heads prevailed and after many discussions, we decided not to change the natural outcome."

How did it feel to see Toyota win the 24 Hours of Le Mans as well as the FIA WEC Super Season?

"It was a perfect season with the exception of Silverstone when we were disqualified. We won the 24 Hours of Le Mans twice in the same season. That was our goal because we'd failed so many times so close to winning before that every 24 Hours of Le Mans is a new challenge for us."

Peugeot has recently announced its participation in the new Hypercar class in the FIA WEC. Thoughts?

"It's big news. We knew there were decisions pending at Peugeot, so this is a wonderful surprise. As early as next year we should find ourselves with Aston Martins then teams like Glickenhaus and ByKOLLES Racing. It's very exciting for the championship and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It shows endurance racing is really taking off. We hope it will inspire a movement and that other constructors will say, hey why not?"


PHOTO: Pascal Vasselon, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing technical director, at the screening of the official 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans film.