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Toyota's Vasselon & Marmorini on the TF107 12 Jan 2007

Toyota TF107 technical detail. Toyota TF107 Launch, Expo XXI, Cologne, Germany, 12 January 2007. World © Sutton.

Speaking at the launch of their new car on Friday, Toyota’s senior general managers for chassis and engine, respectively Pascal Vasselon and Luca Marmorini, explained the thinking behind the team’s 2007 challenger.

Q: Pascal, what were the main lessons you learned from 2006?
Pascal Vasselon:
It was a very busy season, and what we learned was that improving performance is not sufficient. We learned that reliability is essential. The pattern of the season was totally different compared to 2005. We started that season in good shape in terms of performance, and then by the end of the season it was getting a little harder. In 2006 we started the season in the midfield, and by the end we were close to the top in terms of performance. But this progress of performance through the season was perhaps not visible, that’s what we have to accept. The main reason for that was we were not able to finish as many of the races as we wanted to, because of various reliability issues.

Q: What happened in terms of reliability in 2006?
We did not find a global root cause. That would have been too easy! As usual when issues are not caused by basic mistakes, it’s a combination of factors. In terms of packaging for example we pushed harder to develop performance and the packaging of the car was tighter and tighter. It has favoured the occurrence of some of our reliability issues. In other cases we paid for innovative concepts which by nature cannot be immediately under total control. All these things together mean that we took more risks than the year before in terms of reliability.

Q: What’s the thinking behind the new car?
The dominant factors don’t really change from year to year - the physics stay the same! We are still optimising the two major performance factors, aerodynamics and tyres. With the tyres, of course some parameters have changed. Obviously we won’t develop the tyres any more, but it does not mean that the tyre will not be controlling the development of the car, simply because whatever the characteristics of the tyre, it will still be about getting the best from them. And of course continuous aerodynamic development is the other major performance factor that we’ve taken into account for the TF107.

Q: What are the most significant changes compared with last year?
We have several major changes in terms of packaging. The engine has moved forward, the gearbox has moved forward and the front of the monocoque is higher. Most of these changes I would say are driven by the aero development of the car. The car allows us to introduce new suspension systems as well, which concept will be developed in several steps.

Q: How different is the TF107 to its predecessor?
The TF107 is a total change, we have almost no parts which will fit from the TF106 or TF106B. The fact that we had a B car for Monaco did not impact at all the ambition of the development of the TF107, not at all. Despite the fact that we were busy with the TF106B we started the concept of the TF107 in January 2006. It’s true that we went into a very different scheduling of our evolution last year, but it was really driven by a major decision - the crossover point was to bring the TF105B in the middle of 2005, that’s what created the cycle 105B/106/106B.

Q: Have you had to deal with stricter FIA crash tests?
The testing conditions for the front and rear crash have changed. It’s not a major thing, just something which our design group had to take into account, but these evolutions are almost invisible. Except that the basic shape of the rear crash area is imposed, but it’s imposed on all the teams, so all teams will have lost a little bit of performance with that.

Q: What sort of upgrades do you have planned?
We have a roll-out version, we will have a completely new aero package for the first race, and then a second major upgrade coming quite early in the season, just after the flyaway races. Then we will of course develop race specific packages, high downforce, low to mid downforce, and the Monza package. Apart from these major milestones, the norm will be to bring upgrades to every single race.

Q: How much help can you draw on from Toyota in Japan?
The huge capacity of TMC (Toyota Motor Corporation) is something we try really hard to get the best from. Of course we cannot ask our colleagues in Japan to develop the car set-up or other short term oriented items which require on site reactivity. But more and more we involve them in fundamental studies like research on materials and of course simulation. It’s especially important for CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics), and at the moment we are reviewing our collaboration on this side to make sure that we use that computing power available. We have people in Japan working full time, and we have weekly video conferences to co-ordinate these activities, so it’s something we take very seriously.

Q: Luca, how much of a challenge was the first year of V8s?
Luca Marmorini:
“It was definitely a big challenge! Even though the FIA tried to keep as much as possible of the internal single cylinder details of the V10, basically it was a completely new engine. This is why we at Toyota had an engine on the dyno quite early, and also on the track. We had an engine on the dyno on 21 March, and the first engine on the track was late July. Nevertheless, during the year we suffered some issues in terms of how the engine worked with the rest of the car. This meant that lessons were learned by the whole team, and proved how big a big challenge the change to V8s was.”

Q: Were you basically happy with the way things worked out?
“If you see the engine on its own, I would say we are happy in terms of performance. But if I look at the reliability we suffered as a team, as a package, then of course we’re not happy.”

Q: What was the major issue in the change from V10 to V8?
“We found that for some reason a lot of minor details that had lost importance during the V10 era became important again in terms of stopping the car. Small things like a shaft driving a pump, or the radiator fixings. No-one had to worry about details like these in the last two or three years of the V10, but they experienced a different loading condition on a V8. This was basically the fee to pay in the first year of the V8s and hopefully this year we won’t experience anything like it.”

Q: How much did the forthcoming engine freeze influence your thinking last year?
“First of all, the uncertainties influenced us a lot. For a long time it was not clear what was planned, which for us meant keeping a lot of parallel projects alive to try to cover everything. That was the first issue. Secondly, there was the idea of introducing a rev limiter but, even if this was discussed before, no-one thought it would go to 19,000rpm. We planned to introduce an engine during last season that was designed to rev much higher. It was an engine to finish the season with, and then properly introduce for 2007. Once it was clear that we had to homologate an engine in 2006 for 2007, we had to stop, so it was a big waste of resources and time.”

Q: When did you really start to focus on the homologation engine?
“After Nurburgring we started to think about our development based on 2007, and definitely in the last four or five races - from Monza on - all our evolutions were strictly constrained by thinking about 2007. I think it was the same for other teams as well.”

Q: You handed the FIA the ‘reference’ engine in Brazil last year. Are you happy with it as a base for the next few years?
“We think it’s a good base, but as a racing team we were not happy about development restrictions because we were thinking of a lot of development we wanted to carry out. The FIA has limited the possibility of re-tuning, which means that a lot of planned development that should have gone on the engine had to be stopped. As an engineer, this is something that I don’t like!”

Q: What can you gain from the new partnership with Williams?
“From the engine point of view we are doubling the chance to tune reliability and so on. They should be a good benchmark, so I can collect double the data, and from an engine point of view that’s important for us. I think also our chassis colleagues can learn a little bit, and will be better able to judge the positive aspects of our car. Both Williams and Toyota will have a benchmark.”

Q: What’s your overall feeling about the 2007 package?
“We have worked a lot, and the team has improved. We are confident that our performance was much better than what we showed last year as an average. If you have a slow package, you are always slow. We had some spikes on several occasions that showed when everything was working the right way at the right moment, we could definitely be competitive. After Renault and Ferrari I think you could put us in the pool of cars battling for third. This means that we are confident this year’s car will be very fast. There are a lot of potentially very good candidates so it will be quite challenging. We have done a good job, but as usual we’ll understand in March how well the others have done too.”