FLORIDA FIRST FOR TOYOTA GAZOO RACING AT SEBRING
Toyota Gazoo Racing resume their campaign in the 2018-2019 FIA World Endurance Championship on Friday, joining the series’s first visit to Florida for the 1,000 Miles of Sebring.
A one-two result last time out in Shanghai in November ensured the team led both the drivers’ and teams’ championship prior to the four-month winter break.
In the No7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, both Mike Conway and José María López have both raced at Sebring before, with Conway posting third place finishes in the 12 Hours of Sebring IMSA sportscar race in 2017 and 2018. For the car’s third driver, Kamui Kobayashi, this will be a first outing at the track.
Looking ahead to the race, British driver Conway said: “Sebring is going to be a challenging one because it’s a new track for the team. I know the circuit well from IMSA racing and testing in IndyCar. I hope that my experience there will help the team to speed up the process and get the car into a good window. I’m looking forward to going back there and earning a good result.”
Sébastien Buemi is the only member of the championship-leading No8 Toyota line-up to have competed at Sebring before, but he and team-mates Kazuki Nakajima and Fernando Alonso will be looking to consolidate their advantage.
The team, including all six drivers, were introduced to the 17-turn, 3.74-mile Sebring International Raceway at a three-day test in February. They covered almost 2,500 miles on the famously bumpy circuit – formerly a World War II airfield. The venue has hosted the Sebring 12 Hours since 1952, a race won by the Eagle Mark III Toyota, driven by Juan Manuel Fangio II and Andy Wallace in 1992 and 1993, en route to the IMSA GT Championship title in both years.
The WEC race will form part of the same event as this year’s Sebring 12 Hours. For the first time in the championship’s history, the race will be run on a Friday, covering 1,000 miles from a 4pm start, ahead of the 12-hour IMSA race getting under way on Saturday morning.
As well as a new timetable, the team have to adjust to a different pit configuration with an “American wall” separating the garage area from the pit lane. To become familiar with the lay-out, Toyota Gazoo Racing mechanics have practised using a mock-up of the Sebring layout at the team’s Cologne base.