TOYOTA GAZOO Racing set for HYBRID Hypercar debut at 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing, partnered by Acronis, begins an exciting new era of endurance racing when the 2021 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) kicks off with the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps on May 1.

Racing at the iconic Belgian circuit in the Ardennes marks the debut of the GR010 HYBRID Hypercar in the top category of endurance racing, taking over from the LMP1 era of racing.

Once again, the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing team will be amongst the favourites for stage and series victory, the Reigning World Champions and three-time Le Mans winners also boasting an impressive record at Spa, with five victories since its first WEC race there in 2013.

“The Spa event marks the end of our pre-season testing activities with the GR010 HYBRID, and the start of a new phase in the short life of our Hypercar,” commented Pascal Vasselon, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Technical Director. “Since the roll-out in October 2020 at Paul Ricard, we have completed an intense programme of testing, learning progressively more about the car’s characteristics and the new Michelin tyres. With such different weight and performance parameters compared to the TS050 HYBRID, and totally new mandatory systems, it has been a steep learning curve for engineers and drivers.

“As often with testing, it has not gone entirely smoothly; we lost a complete three-day test at Aragon due to heavy snow and the weather was unkind to us elsewhere as well. Luckily the later start to the season allowed us to fit in additional tests before Spa so we have eventually hit our mileage target and ticked all the boxes before the first race.”

READ ALSO: TOYOTA GAZOO Racing unveils GR010 Hybrid Hypercar

For the fourth season running, the team runs with an unchanged driver line-up, World Champions Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López piloting the #7 GR010 HYBRID, while last year’s Le Mans winners Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley take the wheel of the #8 GR010 HYBRID.

Following thousands of testing kilometres already completed, the team knows victory won’t be a formality in a competitive field that includes Hypercar rivals Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus, Audi, Ferrari, Peugeot and Porsche and main competitors Alpine, racing a ‘grandfathered’ LMP1 car.

And, after two days of all-important ‘Prologue’ testing during the lead up to Saturday’s race, the respective TOYOTA GAZOO Racing cars suffered differing fortunes. Monday’s session saw the #7 car hampered by hydraulic and electrical issues that limited running, whilst the #8 car had a better time of it on both days, managing tyre tests and set-up comparisons in completing a total of 205 laps.

READ ALSO: How TOYOTA GAZOO Racing benefits from Acronis for car development

GR010 HYBRID #7 TEAM DRIVER QUOTES

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.”

GR010 HYBRID #8 TEAM DRIVER QUOTES

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):

1st – #26 G-Drive (Rusinov/Colapinto/De Vries) – 2min 4.168secs –  233 laps

2nd – #22 United Autosports (Hanson/Scherer/Albuquerque) +0.116secs – 197 laps

3rd – #38 JOTA (Gonzalez/Da Costa/Davidson) +0.414secs – 218 laps

4th – #8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +0.501secs – 205 laps

5th – #7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +0.540secs – 85 laps

6th – #29 Racing Team Nederland (v.Eerd/v.d.Garde/v.Uitert) +0.607secs – 138 laps

Motorsport Technology