TOYOTA GAZOO Racing moves to China this week for the penultimate round of the 2015 World Endurance Championship, the Six Hours of Shanghai.
The eight-race WEC season concludes with three Asian rounds, starting earlier this month with TOYOTA’s home race at Fuji Speedway, then heading across the East China Sea to Shanghai and finally to the finale in Bahrain in November.
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will again compete with two cars in Shanghai. Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima drive the #1 TS040 HYBRID, with Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin and Mike Conway in the #2.
The team has a strong record in China, having won the race in 2012 and 2014, while a mechanical problem denied a deserved victory following a dominant performance in 2013. It also holds the LMP1 race lap record of 1min 48.694secs, set by Sébastien last year.
This weekend is expected to be more of a challenge, although the team is encouraged by the improved performance shown by the TS040 HYBRID in the wet conditions at Fuji Speedway which saw both cars battling with their Audi and Porsche rivals.
China has become established as a regular stop on the endurance racing calendar. The Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, the precursor to today’s WEC, first visited Zuhai International Circuit in 2010 and 2011 for 1000km races won by Stéphane and Anthony respectively.
Shanghai International Circuit, which was completed in 2004, has been a permanent fixture since the re-birth of WEC in 2012. The circuit, which at 5.451km features 16 corners and two long straights, is located around 40km from Shanghai centre.
TOYOTA will experience it for the first time with the 2015-specification TS040 HYBRID on Friday, when two practice sessions (10.30 & 15.30) will be used for set-up and tyre work. Final practice (09.00) and qualifying (14.00) take place on Saturday, while Sunday’s race begins at 11.00.
Toshio Sato, Team President: “We are looking forward to the Shanghai race. It is a circuit where TOYOTA has been very strong in the past and we have been on the podium every time we have visited China. We will give everything to fight for the podium again this weekend, even if we know the opposition is very strong. We are coming to the end of a long season but the team is focused and determined to get the best possible result. Everyone will be working hard to achieve this in Shanghai.”
Anthony Davidson (TS040 HYBRID #1): “Last year’s Shanghai race was one of our best and it put us on track for both World Championship titles. It’s a different story this year but that doesn’t change our approach to the race; we will concentrate on preparing the car during Friday practice with the target of giving ourselves the best chance in the race. Our team spirit is still strong and I really want to get a decent result in the final two races to give us all a boost going into the winter.”
Sébastien Buemi (TS040 HYBRID #1): “I like the track in Shanghai; it’s a great circuit to drive and I have some good memories from there, particularly winning last year. As drivers we are always learning at every circuit we visit, even if the results are not meeting our high expectations. So we are driving to the maximum, trying to improve and learn; this will help us for next year. I will push hard and hopefully when we’re doing a good job something can happen for us.”
Kazuki Nakajima (TS040 HYBRID #1): “It was fun to fight with the Audis and the Porsches in the first hour at Fuji. But we want to be battling with them for the entire race every weekend; that’s the target. It will be tough in Shanghai but we go there with a positive attitude and fully motivated. I like the circuit, which is challenging, particularly in terms of tyre wear and traffic. It’s a track which has been good to us in the past so let’s see what can happen this weekend.”
Alex Wurz (TS040 HYBRID #2): “I am looking forward to China because I like the track and I have always felt like I have a good rhythm there. I have been on pole twice out of the three times we have raced there in WEC, so hopefully we can find this good rhythm again this year. We know that the long straight is not to our advantage but we will be working hard to close the gap. You never know what can happen; we need to be ready to take any chance which could come in the race.”
Stéphane Sarrazin (TS040 HYBRID #2): “It’s good to be racing again in Shanghai, which is a fun track for a driver with its combination of unusual elements, fast corners and long straights. It will be very important for us to find the best possible set-up for our TS040 HYBRID, so we will be doing a lot of comparison work on Friday as usual to prepare for the race. It will not be easy to challenge at the front but we will do everything we can to be in a good position.”
Mike Conway (TS040 HYBRID #2): “I’ve only driven at Shanghai once, in LMP2 in 2013, so it’s not a track where I have a lot of history. But I do like the circuit a lot as it is quite challenging and satisfying for a driver. The first corners are particularly tricky because it’s incredibly long and you need to be patient to get it right. I am looking forward to experiencing the TS040 HYBRID on this track for the first time and I’ll be doing my best to get a strong result for the team.”
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing at Shanghai International Circuit:
2012 #7: Qualifying 1st; Race 1st.
2013 #7: Qualifying 1st; Race 2nd. #8: Qualifying 3rd; Race DNF (mechanical).
2014 #7: Qualifying 4th; Race 2nd. #8: Qualifying 2nd; Race 1st.
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing 2015 Results:
Silverstone: #1: Qualifying 4th; Race 3rd / #2 Qualifying 6th; Race 4th.
Spa: #1: Qualifying 6th; Race 8th / #2 Qualifying 7th; Race 5th.
Le Mans: #1: Qualifying 8th; Race 8th / #2 Qualifying 7th; Race 6th.
Nürburgring: #1: Qualifying 5th; Race 5th / #2 Qualifying 6th; Race 6th.
Austin: #1: Qualifying 5th; Race 4th / #2 Qualifying 6th; Race DNF.
Fuji: #1: Qualifying 5th; Race 5th / #2 Qualifying 6th; Race 6th.