TOYOTA GAZOO Racing completes Hypercar pre-season preparations
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing worked flat-out during the final two days of testing ahead of the 2021 FIA World Endurance Championship season, during an intense and incident-packed Prologue at Spa-Francorchamps on Monday and Tuesday.
The new GR010 HYBRID Hypercar hit the track against this year’s opposition for the first time on Monday when, as always with a new car and new regulations, the team had a long task list to work through. This was primarily aimed at improving handling and set-ups in preparation for the first race of the 2021 season, the Total 6 of Hours of Spa-Francorchamps on Saturday.
World champions Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López were at the wheel of their #7 GR010 HYBRID, while last year’s Le Mans 24 Hours winners Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley drove the #8 car.
Following an extensive testing programme over the winter, firstly to learn the characteristics of the GR010 HYBRID and then to begin fine-tuning the settings, this week’s Prologue was the official start to the 2021 WEC season. It was also the first time the new Hypercar had shared a track with competitors from all classes.
A total of 35 cars participated in the test, covering a range of machinery from the Alpine LMP1, which will also contest the Hypercar category, to LMP2 prototypes and road-based GT cars, all with different levels of performance.
Monday’s test session saw the #7 delayed by hydraulic and electrical issues which caused it to remain in the garage for most of the day whilst parts were replaced. The #8 car had a busier day, conducting tyre tests and set-up comparisons on the GR010 HYBRID’s first visit to Spa-Francorchamps.
After a tough first day for the #7 GR010 HYBRID, Tuesday went better, with all drivers able to get behind the wheel and contribute to the team’s programme of set-up and tyre development, despite time spent in the garage for repairs following contact with a GT car.
The LMP2 field, was able to record lap times in the same range as the Hypercar category throughout the two days and ended the test with the fastest times, reflecting the different performance window of the Hypercars compared to their LMP1 predecessors.
The team remains at Spa-Francorchamps and will spend Wednesday preparing the GR010 HYBRIDs for the first competitive sessions of the 2021 WEC season, with practice beginning on Thursday evening and throughout Friday prior to qualifying. The green flag will wave on the first race of the Hypercar era at 1.30pm CET on 1 May.
Mike Conway (GR010 HYBRID #7):
“It’s been a challenging week for our side of the garage, but the mechanics did an exceptional job to get us back on track and we’ve been able to get a lot more running in on the second day, despite a few hiccups. The balance feels okay and we’ve been working on race pace, which means consistency and reliability. It’s gone okay and we can take a lot out of the second day so collectively we will go through it all and get back on track Thursday, hopefully with a slightly better car.”
Kamui Kobayashi (GR010 HYBRID #7):
“It is great to be back at Spa and to finally start the season. It was a tough two days for our car but I would like to thank the mechanics and engineers for the huge effort they made to get us on track. It was frustrating to see the car in the garage, particularly on Monday, but they never gave up and in the end we got some useful data to help us prepare for the race. As a team we’ve learned a lot and this has been very useful to help us improve the balance of the car.”
José María López (GR010 HYBRID #7):
“It is definitely nice to be back in a competitive environment; we are nearly in May so it’s been a long time since our last race. Endurance is a tough sport and we always feel like we want more laps, more preparation but my time in the car went well and I felt comfortable. Testing in traffic is helpful; when you are alone on track you use the same line and always brake in the same place. With so many other cars on track it is very different and good training for the season.”
Sébastien Buemi (GR010 HYBRID #8):
“We have obviously been trying to improve through the whole two days so we have lots of data to look at. We will push hard to improve the car and come back stronger for the race weekend, although it looks like the weather might change. It was helpful to practice a bit in the traffic, which hasn’t been easy, especially considering how long it is since our last race. There were a lot of incidents over the two days but our car stayed out of trouble and now we focus on improving things for the race.”
Kazuki Nakajima (GR010 HYBRID #8):
“The Prologue is an important part of our pre-season testing because it gives us the chance to drive with a lot of cars on track. It’s clearly much better to test with others, in terms of preparing for a race. When you are alone it’s harder to learn about trafic management and keeping the tyres in the right performance window. It is challenging to have so many cars out there, as you could see with the number of incidents over the two days, but we need this practice for the race.”
Brendon Hartley (GR010 HYBRID #8): “It’s been great to finally see the WEC paddock alive again and to see all the cars on track. We had nice sunny weather for the two days in the Prologue; I hope it stays like that even though we all know how the Spa weather can be. We have spent many days testing and preparing but it was the first time we experienced the GR010 HYBRID in traffic; it was nice to get in the flow. I’m looking forward to getting the season and the new Hypercar era under way.”
Prologue combined results (both days):
#26 G-Drive (Rusinov/Colapinto/De Vries)
#22 United Autosports (Hanson/Scherer/Albuquerque)
#38 JOTA (Gonzalez/Da Costa/Davidson)
#8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing
#7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing
#29 Racing Team Nederland (v.Eerd/v.d.Garde/v.Uitert)
The TOYOTA GAZOO Racing 2021 WEC media kit and Pictures uploaded here during the event