World champions go ring racing
With 90km separating TOYOTA Motorsport GmbH in Cologne from the Nürburgring, TOYOTA has the shortest journey of all LMP1 manufacturers to the first WEC race in Germany since 1991, when the series was called the World Sportscar Championship.This weekend's race marks a return to race action for the TS040 HYBRIDs after a 10-week break since the Le Mans 24 Hours, when TOYOTA finished sixth and eighth.
World Champions Anthony Davidson and Sébastien Buemi partner Kazuki Nakajima in the #1 aiming for a second podium finish of the season. The #2 line-up of Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin and Mike Conway are looking for their first top-three of the year.
TOYOTA prepared for the race with a two-day test at the Nürburgring in July, which gave the team a chance to evaluate set-up and tyre choice while allowing drivers Anthony, Sébastien and Alex to reacquaint themselves with the track.
Previously known as the Nürburgring 1,000km, the race has a rich history, beginning in 1953. The Nordschleife lay-out was used until 1984 and an endurance prototype still holds the outright lap record around the daunting 20km track, known as the 'Green Hell'.
This weekend's race will take place on the shorter Grand Prix lay-out which features 16 turns over its 5.148km and is relatively narrow, making it challenging for LMP1 drivers to cope with the slower LMP2 and GT cars.
Despite being a new addition to the WEC calendar, all TOYOTA drivers have race experience of the Eifel circuit, which is a regular on the schedules of junior championships as well as Formula 1.
The track action will begin on Friday with two 90-minute practice sessions (12.00 & 16.30), with practice concluding on Saturday morning (09.30-10.30) prior to qualifying (14.30-14.50). The race begins at 13.00 on Sunday.
Toshio Sato, Team President: "It's great to be back at the race track after the summer break. We have recovered from the challenge of Le Mans and we are ready to race again, particularly as this weekend is a home race for us our second home race next to Fuji Speedway. Our factory, as well as Toyota's German headquarters, is very close to the Nürburgring so I hope for a lot of support to give us even more motivation. We will be pushing hard to be part of an exciting race and to challenge Audi and Porsche. It will be difficult, that is clear, but we will do everything we can to compete. Our test at the Nürburgring went well so I think we are well prepared. This is the start of the second half of the WEC season so we want it to be a positive weekend for us."
Alex Wurz (TS040 HYBRID #2): "I lived in Nürburg for two years when I was a teenager driving in Formula Ford and Formula 3. I was only around 200 metres away from the start-finish straight, so I know the area well and it will be nice to go back. I always had good times at the Nürburgring, where I won several races. It's great to be racing an LMP1 car because sports cars have a big tradition at the Nürburgring with the 1000km races. We are looking forward to our second home race as we expect a lot of employees from TMG to visit. They will see the TS040 HYBRID in race action and experience what they are working every day for I'm sure that will be pretty cool."
Stéphane Sarrazin (TS040 HYBRID #2): "The last times I drove an LMP1 at the Nürburgring was in 2007 and 2008 and I won both races. So I have really good memories with an LMP1 car I like the Nürburgring and I'm happy to see it on the calendar again. Even though most of the WEC drivers know it well, it is actually totally different in an LMP1 car compared to a single-seater or GT. It's a nice challenge and I'm looking forward to it. I think the track suits our car pretty well, but we will see I don't know what to expect to be honest. The first part of the season was really difficult for us so we need to keep fighting and push hard to be back on the podium."
TOYOTA first competed in the World Endurance Championship (WEC) in 1983, marking the start of a long period of participation in endurance racing. Since 1985, TOYOTA cars have raced in 17 Le Mans 24 Hours races, achieving a best result of second place on four occasions (1992, 1994, 1999 and 2013). TOYOTA entered the revived WEC in 2012 with its first hybrid LMP1 car, the TS030 HYBRID, which won five of the 14 races it entered over two seasons. It was succeeded in 2014 by the four-wheel-drive TS040 HYBRID, which won its debut race and subsequently the 2014 drivers' and manufacturers' World Championships. They were designed and built by TOYOTA Motorsport GmbH (TMG), where the race team is based. TMG previously represented TOYOTA in World Rally and Formula 1, and was responsible for the 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.