TOYOTA GAZOO RACING READY FOR THE CHALLENGE OF LE MANS
One year ago Toyota Gazoo Racing were within sight of a historic first victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours when fate intervened to snatch victory from their grasp within minutes of the chequered flag. Undaunted, the team are taking up the challenge once again this weekend, determined to succeed in the world’s most famous sportscar race.
They travel to the La Sarthe circuit in northern France as the leaders in the FIA World Endurance Championship, having claimed wins in the opening two rounds of season. Their strong form owes much to the intensive development of the Toyota TS050 Hybrid race car at Toyota’s Higashi-Fuji test centre in Japan and at Toyota Gazoo Racing’s base in Cologne, Germany.
The team’s British drivers are keen to succeed and complete Toyota’s long quest for a Le Mans win. Mike Conway, who pilots the No7 car alongside Kamui Kobayashi and Stéphane Sarrazin, said: “Le Mans is the highlight of our season and the focus of a huge team effort. What happened last year is in the past, now we are focused only on this year’s race and we expect to fight at the front again. I’m expecting a very close race, which would be fantastic for the fans, and cannot wait to be a part of it.”
Anthony Davidson, World Champion with the Toyota in 2014 and driver of the No8 car with Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima, said: “The big challenge of Le Mans is that so many things can and will change during the race. It’s what makes it so special, you never know what’s going to happen. No-one can be confident because the race is so tough, but our preparations have started really well so I’m feeling good and looking forward to it.”
This year Toyota Gazoo Racing will field a third car, with driving duties shared by Nicolas Lapierre, a podium finisher for Toyota in the race in 2014, and Le Mans rookies Yuji Kunimoto and José María López.
Preparations intensified earlier this month when all cars took part in the official test day, the only chance for competitors to try out their cars on the track before race week. The team were satisfied with a productive session, which saw the three Toyotas post the top three fastest lap times.
Le Mans represents the spirit of endurance racing, featuring almost 35 hours of driving, starting on Wednesday with a four-hour practice session at 4pm local time. Two hours of qualifying follow as night falls, from 10pm.
Qualifying continues on Thursday with a further two two-hour sessions, at 7pm and 10pm. The starting grid is decided by the fastest single lap from any of the qualifying sessions, with Toyota ready to fight for its third pole position.
Friday’s drivers’ parade in Le Mans town centre gives fans a chance to meet the drivers before race weekend, Action continues with a 45-minute warm-up at 9am on Saturday, ahead of the race getting under way at 3pm.