Audi driver Allan McNish believes Toyota has already shown enough potential to suggest it could become as big a rival to the German car manufacturer as Peugeot was.
Speaking ahead of the Silverstone Six Hours, the two-time Le Mans winner said Toyota had already established its credentials during its initial run in this year's French endurance classic. After that showing the Scot tipped Toyota to constitute an even greater threat to Audi both this weekend at Silverstone and in future races.
"I think to be honest with you the threat of Toyota is more here (at Silverstone) than it was at Le Mans, and also for the rest of the WEC, because the circuits lean toward slow corners and early accelerations, which suits their car," McNish said. "It's also their second race. For me the two-month break is a long time, but for them it gives them time to digest Le Mans, understand where they can improve and bring in little details like an aero package more tuned to the circuits coming up.
"On that side of things we can expect a harder challenge, certainly. There is also the fact they have nothing to lose; we are fighting for the championship whereas they are fighting for wins, and that brings a slightly different dynamic into it."
Asked about how significant he believed Toyota's performance to be in the long-term, McNish said it indicated Toyota was already capable of assuming Peugeot's mantle of carrying the fight to Audi.
"I don't think it was a great surprise, because we saw at the pre-test at Le Mans they were fast, and not just from their ultimate times," he said. "What was a surprise was that they still had the pace when we got into hours four, five and six – that's when I realized they are getting serious, to the point where we realized if they had a reliable car the fight would go down to the end. That was quite exciting.
"Certainly after Le Mans they gained a lot of respect, not just for the way they treated it but for the way they came to our hospitality afterward to congratulate us. That was when they became part of the championship, if you like.
"You have to say they are only going to get better, and if that's true then we have to get better to stay ahead of them. It's what we loved about Peugeot being involved.
"I think we shouldn't forget that we have gone through a period of absolutely excellent, intense, close racing, and we have been lucky to be in this era. Toyota can definitely step up into the void left by Peugeot."