TOYOTA GAZOO Racing began the defence of its Le Mans 24 Hours crown with a productive and positive test session at the Circuit de la Sarthe today.
The traditional pre-event test is the only chance for teams to experience the 13.626km La Sarthe circuit away from the race week, making today’s eight hours of running particularly important to prepare the cars for the final race of the 2018-2019 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season.
Sébastien Buemi in the #8 TS050 HYBRID he shares with Kazuki Nakajima and Fernando Alonso set the fastest time of the day, 3mins 19.440secs which was 0.809secs quicker than the sister car of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López for whom Mike recorded the best lap time, 3mins 20.249secs.
Today’s lap times from the TS050 HYBRIDs were marginally slower than those posted last year during the test day, partly due to a 10kg increase in minimum weight following a recent Equivalence of Technology adjustment.
Weather conditions were perfect throughout the day with blue skies and air temperatures hitting 30°C, allowing the team to complete a comprehensive programme of fine-tuning aerodynamic, mechanical and hybrid boost settings. The team made good use of the favourable weather and the two TS050 HYBRIDs clocked up 220 laps for a combined total of 2,998km.
In order to participate in the Le Mans 24 Hours, each driver, even those with Le Mans and WEC victories to their name, must complete at least three timed laps during the test day and that formality was achieved without drama for all TOYOTA GAZOO Racing drivers.
Former Le Mans winner Brendon Hartley, who will compete for the team next season, made his first official appearance for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing, completing the minimum laps required to qualify to race in the event of any issue for one of the team’s regular race drivers.
“It felt so good to be back at this incredible circuit in a four-wheel drive 1000hp hybrid car,” commented Hartley. “I was a bit sad to get the call to pit after just three timed laps but that was always the plan, so I knew it was coming. I was just having so much fun discovering the car around here. It was a real pleasure and now I can’t wait to be back in the car again.”
The team will stay in Le Mans for the final preparation step prior to race week, a shakedown test on the 4.14km Bugatti Circuit on Tuesday. Race week kicks off on Sunday afternoon when the cars and drivers will be presented at the scrutineering in the centre of Le Mans city.
Test day results:
1st #8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing 3min 19.440secs 108 laps
2nd #7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +0.809secs 112 laps
3rd #1 Rebellion (Jani/Lotterer/Senna) +1.883secs 77 laps
4th #11 SMP (Petrov/Aleshin/Vandoorne) +2.621secs 61 laps
5th #3 Rebellion (Laurent/Berthon/Menezes) +2.754secs 84 laps
6th #17 SMP (Sarrazin/Orudzhev/Sirotkin) +2.759secs 70 laps