Köln, Germany,
19
February
2024
|
10:49
Europe/Amsterdam

Qatar 1812 KM: Preview

Summary

New-look TOYOTA GAZOO Racing ready for new challenge

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing is renewed and ready to defend its FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) titles against the biggest-ever grid of Hypercar competition when the 2024 season begins in Qatar on 2 March.

After seeing off challenges from Cadillac, Ferrari, Peugeot and Porsche last season on its way to a fifth consecutive world title double, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing joins a field of 19 Hypercars this season, including newcomers Alpine, BMW, Isotta Fraschini and Lamborghini. 

An experienced and proven line-up will be in the driving seat. In the #7 GR010 HYBRID, Mike Conway, 10 years on from his debut with the team, races alongside Team Principal Kamui Kobayashi and newcomer Nyck de Vries, a former TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Test and Reserve driver. 

Reigning World Champions Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa will challenge for a third consecutive crown in the #8 GR010 HYBRID. Sébastien and Brendon are the joint most successful drivers in WEC history with four titles, while Ryo has won the World Championship in each of his two Hypercar seasons. 

The GR010 HYBRID Hypercar has won 16 of its 19 races since its 2021 debut. The car’s appearance takes on a striking updated identity for 2024. An all-new matt black livery represents TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s commitment to making ever-better motorsports-bred cars and continuous evolution, refining its hybrid technologies through competition in endurance racing. 

It has also been optimised for reliability via detailed modifications to selected internal components, although the most visible technical change concerns the front headlights. Using driver feedback, the LED specification has been changed to reduce glare, for better visibility in wet conditions and at night. To optimise pit stop efficiency at the anti-clockwise circuits in Austin and Brazil, the GR010 HYBRID has also been modified to allow for refuelling on the left side of the car, for the first time. 

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing continues to benefit from the technical contribution of long-term partners. DENSO contributes to the GR010 HYBRID’s front motor alongside AISIN whilst also supplying high-performance spark plugs. RAYS delivers lightweight magnesium alloy wheels and Mobil 1 is the lubricant of choice. 

In line with TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s dedication to pursuing a carbon neutral future for motorsport, the GR010 HYBRID again uses 100% renewable biofuel fuel which reduces CO2 emissions by at least 65%. To further contribute to sustainability, tyre pre-heating is not permitted at any race. 

Complimenting those on-track sustainability efforts, the team’s base in Cologne, Germany recently took steps to reduce CO2 emissions by around 1,400 metric tons a year through a new central cooling facility, marking another important step on its journey to carbon neutrality. 

The latest GR010 HYBRID will make its public debut during WEC’s official Prologue pre-season test, held at Lusail International Circuit in Qatar, on 24-25 February, a track first experienced by TOYOTA GAZOO Racing during a pre-season test session in late November. 

The 5.380km circuit will also host the first of eight races in 2024, the inaugural Qatar 1812 KM. It takes place on 2 March, starting at 11am local time (9am CET), and runs for 1,812km – in tribute to the Gulf state’s 18 December national day – or a maximum of 10 hours. 

After Qatar, a European leg features Imola in Italy (21 April) and Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium (11 May) prior to the Le Mans 24 Hours on 15-16 June. Trips across the Atlantic follow for events in Sao Paulo, Brazil (14 July) and Austin, Texas (1 September) before the team’s home race at Fuji Speedway (15 September) and the traditional season finale in Bahrain on 2 November.

 

Kamui Kobayashi (Team Principal and driver, car #7):

“The competition in Hypercar will be harder than ever this season and we are looking forward to it. It will be tougher to succeed, but that makes it even more special and everyone is really motivated. Last year we won the World Championship but we missed out at Le Mans, which is our biggest goal for this year. In endurance racing, success is not only about performance; you need teamwork with all mechanics, engineers and drivers working perfectly. Against such tough competition, we need to push even harder, and we need a top job from everyone; that’s the challenge this season. Our experience is an advantage and we have prepared intensively for this season, so I think we are ready. Now, starting in Qatar, the most important factor is that all team members, including the drivers, work together as one, with big commitment and our best performance.”

Mike Conway (Driver, car #7):

“Ten years sounds like a lifetime, but it has flown by. It’s been really memorable in terms of the different cars, different team-mates and lots of fun over the years. I have enjoyed each and every year, and I am sure 2024 will be no different. I hope we can continue where we left off last season, when the #7 car won four races. With even more competitors, the job is only going to get harder, but we have a lot of momentum on our side and we need to build on that. Qatar is a new track for everyone; we want to hit the ground running with a strong performance.”

Nyck de Vries (Driver, car #7):

“It is a real privilege to finally start competing together with TOYOTA GAZOO Racing in WEC, which is a great series with a lot of momentum and a lot of manufacturers. It’s been a long time waiting to get to the first race, so I am very excited. When we compete for this team, with all its history, we are obviously racing to win and we hope to continue the success of the recent years, starting in Qatar. We tested there at the end of last year to get ready for this, so now I am just excited to start racing.”

 

Sébastien Buemi (Driver, car #8):

“This year will be the biggest grid I have seen in the top category of WEC so obviously it will be a big challenge. We have worked hard to improve the car and the entire organisation, so I am confident we can fight at the front, but it will not be easy. I am very much looking forward to Qatar. After our test in November, I know the track and how the car feels there. It’s an impressive place and driving on that track with the GR010 HYBRID will be cool, so I think it is going to be an amazing event.”

Brendon Hartley (Driver, car #8):

“I am so excited to start this season. We expect our competitors will be tough and we expect some good fights. Qualifying will be more important than ever, and every point, every overtake, every position will be significant. We need to make no mistakes, work closely as a team, and put all the pieces together to reach our full potential. As World Champions there is target on our back again, and a bit more pressure, but this is an amazing team with a lot of experience, so we feel ready for the challenge.”

Ryo Hirakawa (Driver, car #8):

“This is my third season in WEC with TOYOTA GAZOO Racing and I really feel part of this team, alongside Sébastien and Brendon in the #8 car. We all work very well together; I enjoy being part of it. Winning the World Championship for two years in a row is very special so of course, defending the title is a target this year but my biggest goal is winning Le Mans. It will be more challenging than ever with so many Hypercars and this is very exciting for everyone. I can’t wait to start racing in Qatar.”