Portimao practice begins for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing completed a productive first practice session with its GR010 HYBRID Hypercar as preparations for the 8 Hours of Portimao, the second round of the 2021 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), began in Portugal today.
Following victory in the opening race of the season, last month in Spa-Francorchamps, the World Champions take on new competition with the arrival of Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus in the Hypercar field, alongside established rivals Alpine with their LMP1 car.
In the 90-minute session, the #38 JOTA LMP2 car set the fastest lap time, 1min 33.752secs, just 0.029secs ahead of the #36 Alpine on a day when lap times were particularly close; the top 10 was separated by less than a second.
Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley, winners of the 6 Hours of Spa in their #8 GR010 HYBRID, were third quickest, 0.048secs behind. Reigning World Champions Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López were fourth in the #7 sister car. Only 0.055secs separated the top four.
As well as being the 100th World Championship endurance race for Toyota, Sunday’s race also represents the first-ever WEC event in Portugal, although Portimao is a familiar venue for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing.
The team has tested regularly at Portimao since the beginning of its WEC project in 2012, and conducted the first full test of the GR010 HYBRID here in December, but today’s practice marked its first official session on the 4.653km circuit.
Track temperatures were significantly higher than in December, around 50°C, while the GR010 HYBRID itself has evolved since that test with updated set-ups and control settings, meaning the drivers started the day with a lengthy programme of comparisons and adjustments.
The team also had to adjust to an updated balance of performance which sees the GR010 HYBRIDs carrying an additional 26kg compared to Spa, with 2MJ per stint less energy and 5kW less power.
In a first practice punctuated by full course yellows for minor incidents, various mechanical and aerodynamic set-up combinations were trialled in order to gain sufficient data to optimise car balance for the race, while the performance and degradation of the Michelin tyres was analysed in the hot conditions.All six drivers had a chance to complete laps, experiencing the challenge of 32 cars sharing the relatively short and undulating Portimao circuit, and the two GR010 HYBRIDs completed a combined 75 laps, 349km.
Practice will resume on Saturday morning with two sessions prior to qualifying which will determine the grid for Sunday’s eight-hour race.
Mike Conway (GR010 HYBRID #7):
“The session went okay for us. The last time we were here it was winter so it’s nice to be here in warmer conditions, although this does demand something different in terms of set-up. It will be a tough race with all the cars on track; it’s very busy out there and you have to be lucky to get a clear lap. That is going to be hard but it’s all part of endurance racing.”
Kamui Kobayashi (GR010 HYBRID #7):
“The weekend has started pretty well and we had a clean session. The team prepared the car well and it ran without any trouble during the session so we could get plenty of information. There is still a lot of work to do to improve the car for the race but we have made a positive start so I’m pretty happy with everything so far.”
José María López (GR010 HYBRID #7):
“I can’t say a lot from my stint because I only did a few laps. I just got a feeling for the track conditions in these temperatures and there wasn’t a lot of grip out there. We ran through our programme. Mike and Kamui did a good job to get a lot of data which we can look at tonight. It was a quiet day on track for me but tomorrow will be different.”
Sébastien Buemi (GR010 HYBRID #8):
“You never feel like you’ve done enough laps on a day like this but we have been here in the past so we have some data. We are here in the summer which is a lot hotter than our testing, so some of the references are different now. It’s more difficult on the tyres and the car is moving around more. But we are learning and so far it has been okay for me, I feel like we have got a lot of data to look at.”
Kazuki Nakajima (GR010 HYBRID #8):
“I didn’t get a lot of laps because I jumped in at the end and I was delayed by a full course yellow. I’m still getting the feeling but according to Sébastien and Brendon the tyres feel quite different due to the temperatures. So we need to optimise the car and we are still learning. Hopefully as the conditions improve the track will come to us. The traffic is tricky for us here and it will be the biggest challenge for us in qualifying and the race.”
Brendon Hartley (GR010 HYBRID #8):
“It was a bit of an interrupted session due to the full course yellows but it was a pretty clean one and there are no issues on our car. We just need to improve the balance a bit. The track temperatures are very high this week so tyre selection will be a question mark. Also traffic is very difficult here and this is going to be a key part of the race weekend.”
Free Practice 1 results:
#38 JOTA (Gonzalez/Da Costa/Davidson)
#36 Alpine (Negrao/Lapierre/Vaxivierre)
#8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing
#7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing
#34 Inter Europol (Smiechowski/Deletraz/Brundle)
#21 DragonSpeed (Hedman/Montoya/Hanley)
Pictures will be uploaded here during the event