Image credit: SportscarGlobal.
TOYOTA Racing begins the defence of its World Endurance Championship titles in positive mood following a successful testing programme to prepare for this weekend’s Six Hours of Silverstone.
Last season began with a TOYOTA one-two at Silverstone, setting the tone for an impressive year which brought five wins from eight races and established the TS040 HYBRID as the best performing car in the new era of energy-efficient regulations.
With updated cars from all three LMP1 manufacturers, the new season promises to be more competitive than ever, with fans anticipating an unpredictable fight between TOYOTA, Audi and Porsche.
The opening race of 2015 sees Anthony Davidson and Sébastien Buemi defending their drivers’ World Championship, alongside new team-mate Kazuki Nakajima, in the #1 TS040 HYBRID.
Anthony and Sébastien will also be aiming to retain the historic Royal Automobile Club International Tourist Trophy, first awarded in 1905 and previously presented to motorsport greats such as Tazio Nuvolari, Stirling Moss and Graham Hill.
Alex Wurz and Stéphane Sarrazin are reunited with Mike Conway in the #2 car, having raced together three times last season, winning the Six Hours of Bahrain. Mike’s arrival as a permanent race driver means the British crowd will have home heroes to support in both TS040 HYBRIDs.
The title-winning TS040 HYBRID has undergone an evolutionary change since the final race of the 2014 season, with around 80% of parts redesigned to optimise performance, reliability and weight.
Two aerodynamic specifications have been developed to cope with the differing demands of WEC circuits; Silverstone’s high-speed corners are ideal for the high-downforce package so this will be raced for the first time.
Improvements to the powertrain mean it delivers over 1,000PS whilst making use of 6MJ of hybrid energy allowance.
The updated car shared the same track as its competitors late last month at the Prologue official test at Paul Ricard, when both cars completed two days of testing to fine-tune the high and low downforce packages.
Silverstone is notable as the beginning of a new era for TOYOTA Racing, with new Team President Toshio Sato attending his first race since succeeding Yoshiaki Kinoshita, who will be present in Silverstone as part of the handover procedure. Practice starts on Friday with two 90-minute sessions (11.55 and 15.55), with the final session coming on Saturday morning (9.00) prior to qualifying at 12.30. The race itself starts at midday on Sunday.
Toshio Sato, Team President: “I am very excited to be attending a race as part of the TOYOTA Racing team for the first time. Kinoshita san and all the staff at TOYOTA Motorsport GmbH in Cologne have been very welcoming and helpful, so now I am interested to experience the intensity of a WEC race weekend. Even if I am new in this role, I am very familiar with the team’s progress over the last years and it is a great honour to be Team President. Every year we have become stronger and I expect this trend to continue. Of course it will again be a challenge against very formidable opposition. We have prepared diligently and I believe we are ready; we have to be because the competition certainly looks tougher this season. Now we must be fully focused on getting the maximum performance from our cars at Silverstone so we can make the best possible start to our season.”
Anthony Davidson (TS040 HYBRID #1):“Silverstone is a great track and we always have a great crowd there so I’m excited to go back and hopefully we can put on a good show for my home fans. Starting a race for the first time as a World Champion is great; it will be a nice feeling driving the car with the #1 on. We can be proud to show it off at Silverstone and the target is to keep hold of it this year so we want to start well. Sébastien and I are defending the Tourist Trophy as well, which is the oldest trophy in motorsport, so that’s an added incentive this weekend.”
Sébastien Buemi (TS040 HYBRID #1): “It’s always difficult to predict a race at Silverstone because of the weather and in April it can be changeable; you never know what is going to happen. Last year we finished first and second so we would love to repeat that but it’s too early to predict because we don’t know where we stand compared to the others. Starting with the #1 is a great feeling. It shows that we’ve achieved something big last year but that is now behind us and we will do everything we can to keep that for next year. The expectation is to fight for victory again.”
Kazuki Nakajima (TS040 HYBRID #1): “Always at the first race it is interesting to see the performance of all the different manufacturers; I’m really looking forward to that. It’s always exciting to go to Silverstone; I have a good feeling there and I think the new lay-out is really cool with many high-speed corners. Last year’s one-two win was the perfect way to start our season and it would be great to repeat that. We’ve worked hard over the winter and we go to Silverstone with high motivation and team spirit. The aim of course is to win the race and we’ll be pushing as hard as we can.”
Alex Wurz (TS040 HYBRID #2): “It’s the first race of the season so we don’t really know where we are in terms of performance as well as everyone else. I expect that it’s going to be a tough fight but hopefully we will be again on top. I know Silverstone well. It’s quite fast flowing and pretty bumpy, all in all a really cool track for sportscars. It’s always nice to be there because the British fans are real motorsport enthusiasts. Occasionally it’s a bit cold, windy, wet and damp but that’s part of the game and that makes Silverstone what it is – the home of British motorsport.”
Stéphane Sarrazin (TS040 HYBRID #2): “I’m looking forward to Silverstone and we definitely want to win. It would be a dream to start again with a one-two but I am sure it will be a big battle with the others. I like Silverstone a lot, particularly the fast sections which are great fun. The weather is always a factor and you never know what will come, so it’s tricky but part of the character of racing at Silverstone. I’m looking forward to the weekend which is the start of a whole season driving with Alex and Mike. We have a great team spirit and my team-mates are very professional.”
Mike Conway (TS040 HYBRID #2): “Obviously Silverstone is a home race for me and I’m looking forward to getting back on that track; I haven’t been there since 2013. I really enjoy the new lay-out and I think our car fits pretty well with the high-speed corners. It’s always cool to drive in front of my home crowd; the British fans are really passionate and they create a great atmosphere. I can’t wait to get started this season. As always, we are not exactly sure where everyone stands but we’ll see at Silverstone and hopefully we’ll be in good shape”