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.
World Champions Toyota Gazoo Racing will make the short journey south to participate in the fourth round of the World Endurance Championship, the Six Hours of Nürburgring.
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.
The last time I drove an LMP1 at the Nürburgring was in 2007 and 2008 and I won both races.
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 17 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.”
Anthony Davidson (TS040 Hybrid #1): “I’m happy to go back to the Nürburgring as I haven’t raced there since 2007 and it’s a track I really enjoy. It will be great to drive the TS040 Hybrid for the first time at such a traditional track and after Le Mans it will be a completely different experience as it is much tighter. It’s one of the old, classic circuits which most of the drivers know pretty well, but it’s also a tricky track. It’s always nice to go to these tracks with a proper atmosphere and with fans who have a lot of knowledge about the cars and the championship. Just because we haven’t raced there before doesn’t mean that German fans are not interested in WEC so I am looking forward to seeing great support.”
Sébastien Buemi (TS040 Hybrid #1): “I’m really looking forward to going to the Nürburgring. It’s a great circuit and I’ve been there many times with Formula 3 and Formula 1. It’s not an easy track and it’s going to be amazing to drive the LMP1 there. It will be nice to race in front of the German fans; I’m sure it’s going to be a big event. The only thing I’m a bit concerned about is the weather to be honest as it is really special in the Eifel. I remember being there one time in May and we couldn’t test because of the snow! I am sure we will not have snow this weekend but you never know what the weather will bring at the Nürburgring.”
Kazuki Nakajima (TS040 Hybrid #1): “I’m happy to be driving the TS040 Hybrid again after a long break. I took the chance to rest and recover my energy, but I have also been busy with Super Formula and I finished second in Fuji a few weeks ago. It was nice to be on the podium again and I hope I can be there again, along with Anthony and Sébastien, on Sunday. It will not be easy but it’s a new track for WEC so maybe that will provide some opportunities. Even if it’s new to the series, I know Nürburgring really well from Formula 3 and GP2. One thing which will be very different compared to single-seaters is the other categories; Nürburgring is not the widest track so this could be an interesting challenge.”
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 time 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.”
Mike Conway (TS040 Hybrid #2): “I think it’s great that we’re going to race in Germany now, as three of the four LMP1 manufacturers are based there. It’s definitely nice for the fans to have so many home teams to follow and I’m looking forward to showing what an LMP1 car can do at the Nürburgring. It’s a good track and grip-wise I think it will be quite good for our car. The team got some good information from the test last month so it will be interesting to see how the race weekend evolves. Hopefully the fans will enjoy it and it will be the start of a long, successful time for WEC at the Nürburgring.”