World Championship leaders TOYOTA Racing began its challenge at the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours began with the official test day on the Circuit de la Sarthe today.
The team ended the day with the fastest two lap times, set by the #8 and #7 TS040 HYBRIDs respectively in the afternoon session but even more importantly completed a trouble-free and productive test, completing 88 laps - 1,200km - in total.
Le Mans is the third round of the FIA World Endurance Championship, with TOYOTA Racing having won the races at Silverstone and Spa-Francorchamps. Those victories gave the team a 48-point lead against strong competition from Audi and Porsche. Today's two four-hour sessions represented the first and only time teams are allowed to test on the track before competition begins with free practice and qualifying on Wednesday 11 June. It was therefore the first time the TS040 HYBRID has driven at Le Mans, meaning Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin and Kazuki Nakajima in the #7 and Anthony Davidson, Nicolas Lapierre and Sébastien Buemi in the #8 had an intense programme. With just eight hours of running before the competitive sessions begin later this month, the team used the maximum available time to evaluate aerodynamic and mechanical set-ups, as well as the range of slick Michelin tyre compounds. The upgraded-for-2014 TOYOTA HYBRID System - Racing was also put through its paces, with the team analysing how to use the 480PS of four-wheel-drive hybrid boost in the most efficient way. The hybrid system contributes to a total power of 1000PS more than in 2013 whilst simultaneously using 25% less fuel. Action in race week starts on Wednesday 11 June with a four-hour practice at 16.00 before two hours of qualifying from 22.00. Qualifying continues on Thursday with a pair of further two-hour sessions (19.00 & 22.00). After a 45-minute warm-up (09.00), the race starts at 15.00 on Saturday. Yoshiaki Kinoshita, Team President: "It was great to finally see the TS040 HYBRID running at the Circuit de la Sarthe today, and I am pleased with the performance. It is only a test, so it does not show the full picture, but it gives us a good clue as to what everyone can do. We prepared well before the test and the team did another great job today. We can leave this test in good spirits and with the determination to keep up the good work through to the end of the 24-hour race. Now we can't wait to come back here for race week." TS040 HYBRID #7 (Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin, Kazuki Nakajima) Morning: 4th (3min 26.371secs), 44 laps Afternoon: 2nd (3min 23.156secs), 44 laps
Alex Wurz: "It was nice to be back here at Le Mans and to drive the TS040 HYBRID on this track for the first time. It has been a very interesting day. I think it is all brewing up to an epic battle between the three manufacturers in the race. Thankfully we had a very productive day because we now need to fine-tune the details which will determine if we win or lose the race."
Stéphane Sarrazin: "I am happy with what we achieved today. We worked on the set-up for the race and in the afternoon we changed a few things some were not the right direction, but it's better that now we know. The car is good, really fast and I am very impressed by the balance. Compared to last year it is a big step forward, the four-wheel drive is great and the hybrid is very powerful. We improved everywhere so it is very exciting to drive."
Kazuki Nakajima: "It was a positive day for us. In the morning straight away we had the pace and I was quite happy with the car. In the afternoon we tried quite a few things on the car and we got some useful results. Not every change was correct but at least we have the data so it is good preparation for the race weekend. At the moment it looks like we have the speed which is very positive. We are now very motivated for the race week there is a long time to go until the finish of the race."
TS040 HYBRID #8 (Anthony Davidson, Nicolas Lapierre, Sébastien Buemi)
Morning: 2nd (3min 25.881secs), 42 laps
Afternoon: 1st (3min 23.014secs), 46 laps
Anthony Davidson: "I have enjoyed being back in the car at Le Mans after a year gap which seems to fly by faster every year. The car felt strong all day and had a nice balance. We went through the programme and achieved a lot. Straight out of the box this morning the car had a good balance and that allowed us to work on the smaller details. Generally it has been a productive day and I am looking forward to coming back here for race week."
Nicolas Lapierre: "I am pleased to be back at Le Mans, which is a really fantastic track. Today I could experience the only small change compared to last year, which is the new kerbs in some corners. It was a positive day for us and I'm happy. Everything went well and we tried different set-ups, different tyres and we worked on the hybrid settings. It is looking good. All the three drivers are happy with the car it is consistent and seems to be pretty fast."
Sébastien Buemi: "We did a good job and completed a lot of kilometres which was the target, so I'm really happy. The car felt good and we tested everything we wanted to test. We saw some useful indications about which direction to go with set-up now we just need to analyse everything because there is still a lot we can learn. We will try to get the most out of our package so we are in the best possible position when we go into the race weekend."
French and German translations of this press release will be available shortly on www.toyotahybridracing.com, where copyright-free photos are also available for editorial use.
A 'Meet the Team' media session will be held in the team catering area in the paddock on Thursday 12 June from 16.00 to 17.00. The traditional pre-race press conference will take place on Friday 13 June at midday at the TOYOTA hospitality building in the Parc du Raccordement. All accredited media are invited on a first come, first served basis.
About TOYOTA Racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship:
TOYOTA first competed in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) in 1983, marking the start of a long period of participation in endurance racing. TOYOTA cars have raced in 15 Le Mans 24 Hours races, achieving a best result of second place on four occasions (1992, 1994, 1999 & 2013). TOYOTA entered the revived WEC in 2012, as TOYOTA Racing, with its first hybrid LMP1 car, the TS030 HYBRID. That car competed for two seasons, winning five races. It was 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.