The team is fighting for titles on two fronts.
ToyotaRacing made a positive start to the Six Hours of Bahrain in two productive practice sessions for the seventh round of the FIA World Endurance Championship.
The #8 TS040 HYBRID of Anthony Davidson and Sébastien Buemi was fastest in opening practice before ending the evening session in second. The #7 of Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin and Mike Conway was second and sixth in the two sessions.
The team is fighting for titles on two fronts, with Anthony and Sébastien leading the drivers’ standings by 42 points after consecutive one-two victories, in Fuji and Shanghai.
Toyota goes into the penultimate event of the eight-race season holding a 29-point lead over nearest challengers in the manufacturers’ standings as it looks to win its first world title since the 1999 World Rally Championship.
Our objective is become world champions so we will make sure we do our homework well.
This event sees a revised driver line-up in the #7 with Mike returning to the cockpit to replace newly-crowned Super Formula champion Kazuki Nakajima, who misses the Bahrain race to compete at Motegi in the Super GT finale.
Mike, who also raced at Austin in September, reacquainted himself with the Bahrain International Circuit, where he won the LMP2 class in 2013, during a first practice session which took place in fading light.
Both cars had a comprehensive programme of set-up evaluations to complete as they fine-tuned the 1,000PS TS040 HYBRID to the demands of the 5.412km track.
A brief red flag interrupted proceedings but all five drivers had time behind the wheel and the #8 ended the session on top with #7 just 0.058secs slower in second. Both cars completed a combined 351km.
Second practice took place in darkness to prepare the drivers for the conditions they will experience during the second half of Saturday’s race.
Mike started the session and took his total laps today to 39 having spent an hour behind the wheel of #7. Anthony did likewise in #8 as both cars made progress on set-up development and tyre analysis.
Stéphane and Alex had short stints in the #7 while Sébastien closed out the session in the sister TS040 HYBRID. When the chequered flag flew, #8 was second with #7 sixth after a total of 86 laps, taking today’s total to 816km.
Third practice takes place on Friday morning (11.10-12.20) prior to a 25-minute qualifying session (17.35-18.00) which determines the starting line-up for Saturday’s race (15.00).
TS040 HYBRID #7 (Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway)
Free practice 1: 2nd (1min 45.505secs), 37 laps
Free practice 2: 6th (1min 45.895secs), 46 laps
Alex Wurz: “On car #7 we completed the programme without any issues. We got a lot of data on the different set-up items that we wanted to check, as well as the tyres. Now we have to put all the things together to have a strong car for qualifying and the race. We have done all the tasks on the list so I think the engineers will be happy with all the data we have to analyse from today’s sessions.”
Stéphane Sarrazin: “It’s going okay so far but we have some areas to improve on the car. We are trying to find more front grip as we are missing a bit in general. We worked a lot on the race set-up; that was the main target today. We improved the car for the second session but I didn’t run so much in that; tomorrow will be more my day. We’ll work hard and hopefully find some improvements.”
Mike Conway: “I enjoyed today. It was nice to get nearly a full stint of running in second practice. It was good to get used to how the tyres behave over a stint and it’s important to know what I have to do to keep on top of things. We didn’t get a great run on new tyres with the #7 which is a pity so I think we’ll be further up the timing sheets tomorrow. The #8 was up there which bodes well.”
TS040 HYBRID #8 (Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi)
Free practice 1: 1st (1min 45.447secs), 28 laps
Free practice 2: 2nd (1min 44.233secs), 40 laps
Anthony Davidson: “It’s good to be driving here again in Bahrain. It’s a circuit I always enjoy but today the car lacked grip generally which made things a bit more challenging. We have a bit of work to do for tomorrow to optimise the set-ups. Unusually for this season, Sébastien and I are feeling slightly different things in the car. It’s quite rare for us but we have to sit down and find the best compromise for qualifying and the race.”
Sébastien Buemi: “It was a normal practice day for us. The competition is strong so it will be a tough weekend. We are looking forward to the race; that is the most important. Our objective is become world champions so we will make sure we do our homework well. I am sure we will be fine for the race we just need to look carefully into the data and prepare ourselves well. We’ve done our homework today and we will continue tomorrow.”