The team will challenge for a sixth consecutive Le Mans win in front of an expected 300,000 crowd on 10-11 June when it faces a record 16-strong Hypercar field on the race’s 100th anniversary. However, a surprising late rule change means the GR010 HYBRID Hypercars must compete with 37kg of additional weight.
The World Champions made valuable progress to improve set-ups during Sunday’s two sessions, completing a total of 1,798km during the only test day of the year at the 13.626km track.
Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López, in the #7 GR010 HYBRID, recorded the third quickest lap time overall, 3mins 29.827secs. That was 0.323secs behind the pace-setting #51 Ferrari.
Last year’s winners Ryo Hirakawa and Brendon Hartley, sharing the #8 GR010 HYBRID with test and reserve driver Kazuki Nakajima, set the ninth fastest time of the day. Sébastien Buemi will join up with the team on Monday having missed the test due to other racing commitments.
A new, modified livery on the GR010 HYBRIDs made its track debut today. Cherry blossom flowers and buds have been added to emphasise the team’s Japanese DNA and symbolise the advanced technology which continues to be nurtured at Le Mans as part of TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s commitment to sustainability and making ever-better motorsports-bred cars.
The morning session began at 10am in warm, sunny conditions and both cars initially completed installation laps during the first 45 minutes. The opening hour saw Kazuki, a three-time Le Mans winner and 2018-19 World Champion, complete his first laps of the Circuit de la Sarthe since taking the chequered flag in second place to complete the 2021 race.
As the track, which partly consists of public roads, got cleaner, the team’s programme began in full. Both cars analysed different mechanical and aerodynamic configurations to kick off a process of set-up development which will continue throughout next week’s practice sessions.
One safety car period and a red flag, each lasting 25 minutes, interrupted the morning’s action which had been running smoothly for the team until the final moments. With Mike at the wheel, the #7 car made contact with the barriers at Tertre Rouge, sustaining damage to the front and rear.
Mike had earlier set the #7 car’s quickest time of the session, which was enough for fifth place, while Ryo clocked the best lap of the morning in the #8 to finish in eighth.
Thanks to efficient work from the mechanics, new front and rear bodywork was fitted to the #7 in time for José drive immediately at the start of the afternoon session, with no track time lost thanks to a strong team effort.
Further set-up comparisons, as well as analysis of the performance and durability of the different Michelin tyre compounds, continued through a three-hour session which was disrupted for half an hour due to a safety car around the midway point.
Kamui set the quickest lap from a GR010 HYBRID in the #7 on his way to third in the afternoon session. The best lap from the #8 was recorded by Brendon and earned ninth place.
After a productive test, the team has significant data to study in detail over the next two days before two practice sessions and qualifying on Wednesday. Set-up work will conclude with two further practice sessions on Thursday, either side of the grid-deciding Hyperpole contest. The 91st Le Mans 24 Hours begins on Saturday 10 June at 4pm CEST.
Kamui Kobayashi (Team Principal and driver, car #7): “It is great to be back at Le Mans. I am always impressed by this track and it’s been really fun to drive here again. We had an incident at the end of first practice so the day was not as smooth as we had hoped. Mike was fine, which is most important, and the mechanics worked really hard to fix the damage quickly. That minimised the impact on our programme and allowed us to keep working on car set-up and balance. In terms of performance we are in a tough situation but we just need to keep working.”
Mike Conway (Driver, car #7): “It’s our first day on track here this year and it has gone reasonably well, despite some challenges. We have been trying to understand the car and working through a programme of comparisons. As the sessions went on, we made progress and the balance has been getting better. There is still some lap time to find, as always at this stage. But it’s been productive so far and we’ll try to keep going like that.”
José María López (Driver, car #7): “I’m happy to be here again. This was just the first day and we worked to make sure everything is running fine. Our day went okay but it’s difficult to say where anyone is based on the lap times. My first impression is that the competitors seem strong, especially in terms of top speed, but we will keep pushing. We will work hard in the next days to find more performance.”
Brendon Hartley (Driver, car #8): “We’ve still got some work to do but luckily there are a few more days before the race starts. Its always nice to get back to Le Mans, particularly in this car which was really made for this track. Last year we had a great feeling with the car and we are trying to get that balance back. My laps went well; there’s never a dull moment here but it was just about building up to the race on Saturday. We are working very hard and we are up for the challenge.”
Ryo Hirakawa (Driver, car #8): “It was good to be back at Le Mans with the GR010 HYBRID and it certainly feels different to last year, when I had a lot more to learn on the test day. We managed to complete a lot of laps; everything went smoothly from that point of view. The lap times are not where we want to be, and we have some work to do to understand why that is. But we will push before the free practice sessions on Wednesday to make some improvements to the set-up.”
Kazuki Nakajima (Test and Reserve Driver): “It was very nice to be back in the car again for the first time since March, when I joined the post-race test at Sebring. To drive this car at Le Mans is always something special and it was a big honour to jump back in to start the session for car #8. It was a short stint, but it felt like I was back home, and I am pleased I could contribute to the test programme.”