Features - Interview

JANUARY 10, 2008

Interview with Pascal Vasselon

Pascal Vasselon is the man in charge of chassis design at Toyota. A tyre man with Michelin for many years, Vasselon took over the management of the team when Mike Gascoyne departed.

Pascal Vasselon is the man in charge of chassis design at Toyota. A tyre man with Michelin for many years, Vasselon took over the management of the team when Mike Gascoyne departed. Oddly enough. the team has concluded that the major problems with the 2007 car caused by the change of tyres which had a far greater influence on performance than many teams had believed. The major work on the TF108 has been to develop a car that is better suited to the latest generation of Bridgestoen rubber. The car is, however, very different in aerodynamic terms.

"The aerodynamic concept of this car has changed," Vasselon says. "The TF107 was an evolution of the TF106 but this time the new package is a departure from recent Toyotas. The primary aerodynamic design philosophy for the TF108 is geared towards optimising the entire package to minimise balance and downforce changes throughout a lap, thereby producing a more driveable, aerodynamically robust car. In addition to the aerodynamic philosophy, another fundamental change is the wheelbase, which is longer. In mechanical terms we felt we had a strong basis in the TF107™s characteristics so we have focused on making a few refinements. We have made refinements to improve the weight over stiffness ratio with better structural efficiency, so we achieve the same stiffness values with less weight."

Why change the wheelbase?

"This was a decision we had to take at the very beginning of the TF108 project, for obvious reasons as it has a huge impact. The main reason for making this decision is to achieve more stability, but secondly we also expect greater aerodynamic development potential, giving our aerodynamicists wider surfaces so more space to play with. Has the TF108 hit our targets in wind tunnel tests and other simulations? I am pleased to say the TF108 is on target, the aerodynamic efficiency and associated performance metrics continue to improve rapidly, but of course the real test will come when it runs on the track. The TF108 looks great and we are very excited to see it in action to learn if it lives up to our high expectations."

How ambitious were our targets?

"At Toyota we believe in setting challenging targets so we always aim high. When we did the comparison to other teams and what they were achieving in terms of performance, it was quite straightforward for us to deduce what targets we should be aiming for and what kind of aerodynamic figures we should expect to get. We knew what we wanted to achieve with the TF108 but setting the target is easy, the challenge is to deliver performance on the track.

Which areas did you identify to improve?

"In 2007, the performance overall was not where it had to be so there were obviously some weaknesses. The objectives for TF108 development are aerodynamic efficiency and drivability. For 2008, we want a car offering a wider operating window. This has been achieved through a better understanding of the key aerodynamic stability metrics, in addition to judicious whole car flow control and thermal management."

Are there obvious visual differences?

"Of course. One of the most visible changes is the combined use of suspension turning vanes, barge boards and undercut sidepods.

"Everyone has worked very hard to get to this stage but really the work is far from being complete. Now we will focus first on understanding the characteristics of the car on the track in order to steer set-up and development directions. This starts with the roll out on January 13 at Jerez. There is a lot of work to do to get the most out of the car before the season starts so there will be no let-up in our efforts."

Will there be a B version of the TF108?

"We have no plans to introduce a B-spec version of this car but we will introduce significant new packages as the season goes on. The first new package will be on the car in Australia for the first race."

How has the Toyota Way been implemented in the development of the TF108?

"The Toyota Way is in our blood so of course the principles and methods are used in the way we organise our resources and the way we deal with problems. The Toyota Way is now embedded in our philosophy."

This is the second year of the current tyre regulations, how has the team adapted the TF108 to the situation?

"In most cases you adapt to a new tyre situation by adjusting some key concept parameters on the new car. There are significant factors you must get right to use the tyres correctly, such as the weight distribution window or the camber change. We know from the TF107 that we got these characteristics in the right window so for the TF108 we expect to be in a position to work within our usual set-up parameters to get the best out of the tyres. Of course, we are still learning every day how to truly get the maximum out of the tyres because there are always small improvements to be made. The tyres for this season will be very similar to 2007, with just a subtle construction change which will be minor in terms of its effect on the car.

"Personally, I believe the target should be to fight systematically for the podium in 2008. Next year we should aim to achieve what BMW Sauber achieved in 2007, which was to be the best of the rest. It would not be realistic to talk of fighting for the title this year but we want significant improvement."