1000 Miles of Sebring: Free Practice
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing sets the Sebring standard
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing stepped up preparations for the 2023 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season opener by setting a new Hypercar milestone when practice began for the 1000 Miles of Sebring.
Kamui Kobayashi set the fastest lap of the day, 1min 46.954secs, in the #7 GR010 HYBRID he shares with Mike Conway and José María López. That is the quickest lap ever for a Hypercar in an official WEC session at the historic Sebring circuit.
A promising day ended with the #8 GR010 HYBRID of Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa in second place, just 0.318secs behind.
World Champions and 2022 Le Mans winners TOYOTA GAZOO Racing therefore finished on top of an 11-car Hypercar field, featuring new competitors Cadillac, Ferrari, Porsche and Vanwall as well as existing rivals Glickenhaus and Peugeot.
After completing more than 3500km of testing, and topping the timesheets, at the Prologue, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing was well prepared for race week, although the weather in first practice were noticeably different compared to the weekend. Conditions were cooler, with more wind, and air temperatures were down at 17°C.
The opening one-hour session saw both GR010 HYBRIDs resume their programme of aerodynamic and mechanical set-up adjustments, whilst also analysing the Michelin tyres in lower track temperatures. Only Mike and José drove the #7 car, while all three #8 drivers were in action.
Ryo became the first GR010 HYBRID driver to lap Sebring in under 1min 48secs when he set the quickest lap of the morning session with two minutes remaining. José’s best effort in the sister car put the #7 in fifth.
Kamui got his first laps of the day directly at the start of second practice, which began in warmer conditions, under bright sunshine. But his progress was interrupted early due to a red flag, which shortened the session by around 10 minutes.
Kamui’s best lap was worth the wait. He set the fastest Hypercar lap yet around the 6.019km of Sebring, beating last year’s pole position time by almost half a second. Brendon made it a one-two for the team before a further red flag cost four minutes and gave an opportunity for a driver change. José and Sébastien completed the session in their respective cars, with neither Mike nor Ryo getting behind the wheel.
Drivers and engineers will now analyse today’s data to fine-tune set-ups and tyre strategies for final practice on Thursday. That will be the final chance to try out improvements before qualifying, which starts at 7.20pm local time as the sun goes down at the birthplace of endurance racing in the United States. The 1000 Miles of Sebring begins on Friday at midday local time (5pm CET).
Kamui Kobayashi (Team Principal and driver, car #7): “It has gone quite okay today. We have been trying to adjust our car to the different conditions and we need to continue improving the balance. I only drove in the afternoon, and it was nice to be fastest, but I think I could have improved my lap. So far, the team is doing a great job but it’s still too early to say what the competitive situation really is. Our programme is going smoothly so we are happy with where we stand at the moment.”
Mike Conway (Driver, car #7): “It has been a decent day for both the cars. Despite the result, I think we’ve still got some homework to do overnight to optimise the set-up on our car because there are some areas to improve. The two sessions today were so short, with a couple of red flags as well, it feels like you get hardly any running which is quite tricky. But we have learned a lot, including more about the competition; the lap times were much closer than at the Prologue. We’ll see what Thursday brings.”
José María López (Driver, car #7): “Our pace has been strong, particularly thanks to a good flying lap from Kamui. But the competition is getting closer, so we still have to work a bit on the balance and the tyres. We have shown potential, but we need to keep pushing to find a good compromise for the balance. We have only done two tests and the Prologue with our 2023-specification car so there is plenty still to learn, but I think we’re not far away.”
Sébastien Buemi (Driver, car #8): “I didn’t do so many laps today, but the car ran well and as a team we did quite a lot of running despite the short sessions and the red flags. The temperature was a lot cooler than during the Prologue and this helped us to learn about the tyre behaviour in these conditions. By the time we get to the race, hopefully we can optimise the situation in the best way. The car felt good, so we just need to get the most out of what we have. Let’s keep pushing.”
Brendon Hartley (Driver, car #8): “It was another smooth day, with different track conditions compared to the Prologue at the weekend; a loss of track temperature and a change of wind. I think things worked well for us. We are working on the details, trying to fine-tune everything, not making big set-up changes. We have all been pretty happy with the car but it’s still hard to know who the favourite is. We feel like we are in the fight. We are focusing on ourselves, and we have confidence for the next couple of days.”
Ryo Hirakawa (Driver, car #8): “As a team we set the fastest time in both sessions, and I was quickest in first practice, so I am happy with how everything has gone so far. We seem to be doing well and, thanks to the hard work from the team, we have had no issues. Let’s keep going like this. I am sure it is going to be closer when we get to qualifying and the race; it should be exciting. We need to fine-tune everything to be ready for the fight.”
|1000 Miles of Sebring - Free Practice 1|
|1st||#8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing||1min 47.649secs||30 laps|
|2nd||#51 Ferrari AF Corse (Pier Guidi/Calado/Giovinazzi)||+0.286secs||28 laps|
|3rd||#50 Ferrari AF Corse (Fuoco/Molina/Nielsen)||+0.390secs||30 laps|
|4th||#2 Cadillac Racing (Bamber/Lynn/Westbrook)||+0.441secs||24 laps|
|5th||#7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing||+0.964secs||28 laps|
|6th||#6 Porsche Penske (Estre/Lotterer/Vanthoor)||+1.096secs||28 laps|
|1000 Miles of Sebring - Free Practice 2|
|1st||#7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing||1min 46.954secs||25 laps|
|2nd||#8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing||+0.318secs||24 laps|
|3rd||#50 Ferrari AF Corse (Fuoco/Molina/Nielsen)||+1.167secs||22 laps|
|4th||#2 Cadillac Racing (Bamber/Lynn/Westbrook)||+1.311secs||22 laps|
|5th||#51 Ferrari AF Corse (Pier Guidi/Calado/Giovinazzi)||+1.652secs||23 laps|
|6th||#708 Glickenhaus Racing (Dumas/Briscoe/Pla)||+2.746secs||21 laps|
The 2023 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WEC press kit, along with rights-free video material and photography of all TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s motorsport projects, can be found at https://www.tgr-dam.com.
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