Toyota admits it is unsure it can topple Audi in this year's Le Mans 24 Hours, despite being far "better prepared" than in 2012, when it led a portion of the race, and having been given a rules break following Audi's domination of the first two World Endurance Championship rounds.
The Japanese marque made its World Endurance debut at the La Sarthe track last year, and briefly managed to forge ahead of Audi and into the overall lead. It subsequently went on to claim three victories in the final four races of the 2012 WEC championship.
Despite the benefit of such experience, and the added preparation time, Toyota admits Audi's superlative start to 2013 has tempered expectations.
"We are facing a very tough opponent in Audi so it is hard to be confident," team president Yoshiaki Kinoshita said. "Last year's Le Mans was our first race with the TS030 Hybrid, so we expected to face some difficulties; this year we are better prepared and we expect to demonstrate that. We know we have done everything in our power to be ready and we will give 100 percent effort to succeed. It is a very long week and many things can happen so we must be ready for the challenges to come."
Factory driver Alex Wurz, a two-time winner of the endurance classic, said it was clear Audi has made substantial gains over the winter.
"Last year it was really difficult for us as it was our first race," Wurz said. "We did as much as we could to be ready but it was not possible to truly fight for the whole race, even if we did take the lead. This time we had an intense program over the winter, but we saw our competitor also improved a lot so I'm enjoying this challenge."
This year's event will mark Toyota's 15th attempt to winning Le Mans. Its has finished runner-up three times, the most recent coming in 1999, when it finished one lap down on the winning BMW V12 LMR.