TOYOTA GAZOO Racing completed a positive and constructive official test day at the Circuit de la Sarthe today as its preparations for the 2018 Le Mans 24 Hours stepped up a gear.
Following its one-two victory in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season opener at Spa-Francorchamps, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing again set the pace . Fernando Alonso who shares the #8 TS050 HYBRID with Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima set the fastest lap of the day, 3mins 19.066secs.
That was 0.614secs quicker than the second-placed #3 Rebellion, while the #7 car of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López ended the test third. In total the two TS050 HYBRIDs completed 202 laps, 2,752km, on a day of trouble-free running despite three red flags and multiple safety car periods.
Today’s test day was the only chance for teams to experience the 13.626km Circuit de la Sarthe before race week, making it a particularly important event as the 86th Le Mans 24 Hours approaches.
Both cars had a long list of items to test, including aerodynamic and mechanical set-ups, as well as hybrid recovery and boost settings. The circuit is made up partly of public roads so various specifications of Michelin tyre were evaluated in terms of performance and degradation on this unique track surface.
Drivers also took the opportunity to reacquaint themselves with the track following a 12-month absence since the conclusion of the 2017 Le Mans 24 Hours. Test and reserve driver Anthony Davidson completed the mandatory laps to ensure eligibility for race week as a precaution in case of an unforeseen issue for one of the regular race drivers.
Fernando had the chance to experience the Circuit de la Sarthe for real at the wheel of a TS050 HYBRID for the first time, following several simulator sessions to prepare for his Le Mans debut. He took the wheel of the #8 early in the morning session and went on to complete 40 laps, 545km, over the course of the day.
Most team members will stay at Le Mans for a shakedown test on the shorter Bugatti Circuit on Tuesday to finalise preparations prior to race week, when action begins on Wednesday 13 June with practice and first qualifying.
Mike Conway (TS050 HYBRID #7): “It’s good to be back on track here at Le Mans; we’ve been waiting a long time for this. The car feels strong and we have been just picking up where we left off here last year really with getting the car dialled in for race week. We have made a positive start and now I am looking forward to coming back for the race. It can’t come soon enough.”
Kamui Kobayashi (TS050 HYBRID #7): “I think it has gone well today. We worked on getting the car and drivers back in the rhythm here and I’m pleased with how it went. It’s nice to be here at Le Mans, even if it is only the test day without all the unique atmosphere of the race. I always enjoy driving here at one of the best circuits in the world. Now I am very excited about race week.”
José María López (TS050 HYBRID #7): “It was a good test and particularly nice to return here. It’s my second Le Mans but I still feel a bit like a rookie so I was really looking forward to get in the car. The red flag in the morning cost me a bit of track time but I did three stints in the afternoon which was good. I am quite pleased and looking forward to finish the job in the race.”
Sébastien Buemi (TS050 HYBRID #8): “It was a positive day with a lot of running and no reliability issues. From my side it was a bit more difficult because I was not on the track at the right time so I didn’t get the most mileage. Still it was enough to get a feeling so we can analyse the data and do all the normal preparations. We have a week to check everything and fine-tune the set-up before we come back for the race.”
Kazuki Nakajima (TS050 HYBRID #8): “It was exciting to jump in the car again at Le Mans. The car has felt quite good since the morning, when the track conditions were surprisingly good. I enjoyed that session but in afternoon most of my driving was affected by safety car periods. Anyway, we will probably face safety car periods in the race so this was useful preparation.”
Fernando Alonso (TS050 HYBRID #8): “It was a very good day for us as a team. We obviously prepared this test in the best way possible before the big race in two weeks time. The car felt good from the first lap and everyone was happy straight away. Then it was about getting familiar with the circuit; I have been in the simulator and studied onboard laps from previous years but it’s always different on the real track which feels perfect for these cars. It was an interesting day and a lot of fun.”