Köln, Germany,

6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps: Free Practice


Spa spectacle begins for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing made a constructive start to the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps on a disrupted opening day at the iconic Belgian circuit, venue for the third round of the 2023 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).

A record grid of 13 Hypercars will do battle in the last race before the centenary edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours in June, and the action got underway at Spa with two 90-minute practice sessions on Thursday.

World Championship leaders Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa, who won round two in Portimão earlier this month, set the second fastest time of the day in their #8 GR010 HYBRID, 1.111secs behind the pace-setting #51 Ferrari.

On a day when race preparation took priority over single lap speed, last year’s Spa winners Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López, in the #7 GR010 HYBRID, were fifth fastest overall.

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing won the opening two races of the 2023 WEC season and is aiming for its seventh victory in a row at the legendary 7.004km Spa circuit in the face of strong competition from Hypercar rivals Cadillac, Ferrari, Peugeot and Porsche.

After hot conditions for those events in Sebring and Portimão, practice at Spa brought cooler weather; the air temperature was only 9°C when the morning session began. Both cars spent time in the garage for adjustments during a disrupted session, which included a 12-minute red flag period halfway through.

Mike and José shared the wheel of the #7 GR010 HYBRID, while Sébastien and Ryo drove the #8 car, for a programme of mechanical and aerodynamic set-up evaluation. Sébastien recorded the quickest lap of the session shortly after the red flag ended. Mike’s first flying lap of the day was enough for third place.

Focus in second practice switched to analysing the characteristics of the different compounds of Michelin tyre, with priority on maximising performance for Saturday's race. TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s victories in the first two races of the season were built on a foundation of strong tyre management and consistency.

Having sat out first practice, Kamui and Brendon were the busiest of the team’s drivers in another session featuring several interruptions. Three full course yellow periods and two red flags reduced the productive time available for all teams.

The #8 was top GR010 HYBRID in second practice, ending it fourth thanks to Ryo’s best lap. Kamui set the quickest lap for the #7 car, which was seventh in that session.

A third free practice on Friday morning provides the last opportunity for adjustments prior to qualifying in the evening, which will set the 38-car grid for Saturday’s race.

Kamui Kobayashi (Team Principal and driver, car #7): “Unfortunately I didn’t drive in the morning so second practice was my first time in the car. It’s good to be back in Spa, which is one of my favourite tracks. The temperatures were low today compared to the previous races so we worked on adjusting our car for those conditions. It’s hard to say where we are but we are just getting on with our job of improving the balance. It seems like we made a reasonable start and we’ll keep pushing.”

Mike Conway (Driver, car #7): “It’s been a tricky day in terms of red flags and other interruptions, which meant we lost some running. All in all, we learned as much as we could considering the time available, but it would have been nice to get more laps. We’ll take what we learned today and improve overnight. Tomorrow is going to be a different situation with the weather, but we’ll try to maximise everything for the race.”

José María López (Driver, car #7): “It felt like those were two short sessions. We tried to do as much as we could, mainly tyre tests because the temperature is quite cold and it’s difficult with the tyres out of the pits; warm-up is going to be a big challenge. It has been a decent day, but it feels like we needed more time. We’ll see what happens tomorrow, but we are staying optimistic.”

Sébastien Buemi (Driver, car #8): “It was a pretty eventful day with lots of red flags and full course yellows. I didn’t get to do a lap in second practice so it is not the ideal preparation for the race. Everyone’s in a similar situation with a lack of track time. We need to look at the data and try to improve, to do the best we can with what we have, but it’s not going to be easy, especially if tomorrow is wet.”

Brendon Hartley (Driver, car #8): “It wasn’t the kind of clean, straightforward day that we have become used to and we lost a lot of track time with all the various situations on track. With quite limited running, we have a lot of question marks still, particularly in terms of the tyres. We’re going to be working very hard before qualifying to understand the data we have and find out how we can get the most out of the car.”

Ryo Hirakawa (Driver, car #8): “So far we seem to be making good progress, despite all the interruptions which really limited the number of laps each driver could do. We notice that in particular at a long track like Spa. It looks like tomorrow is going to be wet so the situation will be different again. We need to assess what we have done today and prepare our car for the race. We’ll do our best in qualifying but the big priority is the race.” 

6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps - Free Practice 1 

1st#8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing2min 2.982secs19 laps
2nd#50 Ferrari AF Corse (Fuoco/Molina/Nielsen)+1.650secs29 laps
3rd#7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing+1.660secs18 laps
4th#51 Ferrari AF Corse (Pier Guidi/Calado/Giovinazzi)+1.734secs29 laps
5th#6 Porsche Penske (Estre/Lotterer/Vanthoor)+1.888secs25 laps
6th#2 Cadillac Racing (Bamber/Lynn/Westbrook)+2.365secs27 laps

6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps - Free Practice 2 

1st#51 Ferrari AF Corse (Pier Guidi/Calado/Giovinazzi)2min 1.871secs30 laps
2nd#50 Ferrari AF Corse (Fuoco/Molina/Nielsen)+1.278secs14 laps
3rd#2 Cadillac Racing (Bamber/Lynn/Westbrook)+1.467secs31 laps
4th#8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing+2.509secs30 laps
5th#93 Peugeot TotalEnergies (Di Resta/Jensen/Vergne)+3.309secs11 laps
6th#708 Glickenhaus (Dumas/Pla/Mailleux)+3.674secs29 laps
7th#7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing+3.858secs28 laps


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