Spa beckons for the World Champions
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing makes the short journey to Belgium for the second round of the World Endurance Championship, the Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, this weekend.
The team is based at TOYOTA Motorsport GmbH in Cologne, Germany, approximately 120km away from Spa, which is considered the first of three home races alongside Fuji and Nürburgring.
Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima, in the #1 TS040 HYBRID, started the season with a podium finish for third place in the Six Hours of Silverstone earlier this month. Anthony and Sébastien won in Spa 12 months ago.
A fourth place for the #2 car of Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin and Mike Conway completed a satisfying points haul for the team at Silverstone, meaning TOYOTA goes to Belgium second in the manufacturers' standings, eight points behind leaders Audi.
The Spa event represents the 10th race for the TS040 HYBRID at least one car has stood on the podium in each of those races while the car has won five of them.
As in the opening race, the team will again use the high-downforce TS040 HYBRID, although the peculiar demands of Spa mean downforce levels will be set lower than at Silverstone in order to achieve higher speeds on the long Kemmel Straight.
Unlike previous years when all action was crammed into two hectic days, the Spa weekend follows a three-day format. Practice begins on Thursday (12.00-13.30 and 16.30-18.00) and concludes on Friday (14.00-15.00) prior to qualifying (18.35-19.00). The race begins on Saturday at 14.30.
This week, the reigning World Champions are competing for the first time with the name of 'TOYOTA GAZOO Racing', which reflects a TOYOTA Motor Corporation philosophy to emphasise motorsport as a tool to make ever-better road cars.
This philosophy is already embraced by the WEC programme, with hybrid technology transfer from the race track benefiting road car development since the beginning of the project in 2012.
The GAZOO Racing name is used in Japan for various grassroots motorsport activities and has been seen in Europe at the Nürburgring 24 Hours.
Toshio Sato, Team President: "Spa is an important race for us, not only because it is one of our home events. It is also the last race before Le Mans so it will be very important to get plenty of data and fine-tune our car to help with our Le Mans preparation. We won this race last year and that is our ambition again, although we know our opponents are strong. Everyone has worked extremely hard after Silverstone to be ready and we will be fighting for victory."
Anthony Davidson (TS040 HYBRID #1): "I'm looking forward to racing again at Spa as it's a track I enjoy and one where we won last year. Hopefully we will be more competitive there than we were in Silverstone. The weather is always unpredictable at Spa you never know what's coming and that can definitely affect the results. The track itself is really fascinating and driving through Eau Rouge is much more challenging with an LMP1 car than an F1. On a good day it's just about full throttle so it means you are always on the edge through there."
Sébastien Buemi (TS040 HYBRID #1): "Spa is a fantastic track, definitely one of my favourites. Driving through the high-speed corners like Eau Rouge feels amazing in our LMP1 car so I'm looking forward to going back there, especially after our victory last year. The track should suit our car better than Silverstone so I'm confident we'll be able to fight for the win. It will not be easy against the other LMP1 manufacturers so we have to be very focused in practice to get the most from our car. We are motivated and looking forward to the challenge."
Kazuki Nakajima (TS040 HYBRID #1): "I really enjoy racing at Spa it's such a fantastic circuit for a driver. I know the team has worked hard back in Cologne to prepare for this race and we expect to be more competitive than we were at Silverstone. I am sure it will be another close race which is great for the fans. Last year was my first time on the podium at Spa, but still I have never won there. This year would be the perfect time to change that!"
Alex Wurz (TS040 HYBRID #2): "Spa is a nice track with some really cool corners. The weather can be a question mark last year was great but we have all experienced how changeable it can be. As well, Spa is also special in terms of tyre choice. It can be particularly challenging so we need to work hard in the practice sessions to make sure we get this right. We'll be hard at work to make the most of the time available and I hope it will pay off."
Stéphane Sarrazin (TS040 HYBRID #2): "I am looking forward to Spa which is one of my favourite tracks it's very exciting and challenging for a driver. There is a special atmosphere there as it is an old-style circuit, which is longer than most others. I am really motivated to get a strong result this weekend. It's the final race before we go to Le Mans so you always want to fight for the win to put everyone in a positive frame of mind. I'm sure we can get a good result."
Mike Conway (TS040 HYBRID #2): "I haven't raced at Spa since 2008 in GP2. I've been away far too long! It was one of my favourites so I am definitely looking forward to racing an LMP1 car there I expect it will be a great experience. We made a reasonable start to the season at Silverstone but I think Spa will suit us better so I expect we will be stronger. It's another race which we won last season so we want to defend that title and give ourselves the perfect platform to prepare for Le Mans."
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing at Spa-Francorchamps:
2013 #7: Qualifying 4th Race DNF (mechanical). #8: Qualifying: 5th Race 4th.
2014 #7: Qualifying 4th Race 3rd. #8: Qualifying: 2nd Race 1st.
High-resolution copyright-free photos are available for editorial use at www.toyotahybridracing.com/media.
About TOYOTA Racing in the World Endurance Championship:
TOYOTA first competed in the World Endurance Championship (WEC) in 1983, marking the start of a long period of participation in endurance racing. Since 1985, TOYOTA cars have raced in 16 Le Mans 24 Hours races, achieving a best result of second place on four occasions (1992, 1994, 1999 and 2013). TOYOTA entered the revived WEC in 2012, as TOYOTA Racing, with its first hybrid LMP1 car, the TS030 HYBRID, which won five of the 14 races it entered over two seasons. It was succeeded in 2014 by the four-wheel-drive TS040 HYBRID, which won its debut race and subsequently the 2014 drivers' and manufacturers' World Championships. They were designed and built by TOYOTA Motorsport GmbH (TMG), where the race team is based. TMG is the former home of TOYOTA's World Rally and Formula 1 works teams, and was responsible for design and operation of TOYOTA's TS020 Le Mans car in 1998-99. TMG now combines motorsport participation with work as a high-performance engineering services provider to third party companies, as well as the TOYOTA family.