TOYOTA GAZOO Racing kicked off the final race week of the 2015 World Endurance Championship with a busy day of practice for the Six Hours of Bahrain.
The #1 of Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima were fifth in opening practice and sixth in the following session on a day when the focus was firmly on race preparation.
In the #2, Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin and Mike Conway returned to the scene of their 2014 race win, finishing the afternoon session in sixth before recording the fifth fastest time in the evening.
Saturday’s race represents the end of an era for the team. It is the final race as a professional driver for Alex and also the last time the World Championship-winning TS040 HYBRID will compete.
The team marked Alex’s milestone by coming together for a team photo and presenting him with a special memento this morning; a framed 2015 race overall.
First practice began in daylight on a warm afternoon but finished in twilight, while the second session took place entirely in darkness. That gave the drivers a taste of all conditions they will experience in Saturday’s day-night race.
Dry and warm weather offered an ideal opportunity to compare various settings on the TS040 HYBRID so both crews wasted no time as they fine-tuned the cars for optimal race set-up.
As well as adjusting aerodynamic and mechanical set-ups, both cars analysed the hybrid settings. The TS040 HYBRID is limited by regulation to a maximum of 3.69MJ of hybrid energy per lap in Bahrain so the team studied the most efficient way to recover and deploy this.
With two compounds of Michelin slick tyre available, their performance and durability was also tested. In total, the two TS040 HYBRIDs completed 149 laps of the 5.412km Bahrain International Circuit over today’s three hours of practice, representing 806km.
Preparations resume on Friday with final practice (11.00) and qualifying (17.30). Saturday’s race begins at 15.00 local time.
TS040 HYBRID #1 (Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima)
Free practice 1: 5th (1min 45.371secs), 32 laps
Free practice 2: 6th (1min 44.288secs), 42 laps
Anthony Davidson: “Conditions were stable but we struggled to find the perfect balance with our car. We need to find some improvements to the set-up, particularly at the rear end. We are going in the right direction but we need to find a bit more for the race.”
Sébastien Buemi: “It went fine today. We had a solid day with no reliability issues so we were able to do a lot of laps and gather a lot of data. Now the objective is to look at that and try to get the most out of our car this weekend, which is always the target.”
Kazuki Nakajima: “It has been a long time since I last drove here, so it was nice to be back in Bahrain with this nice weather. We changed the set-up between the two sessions and found some improvements during second practice so I think it has been a positive day. I enjoyed a little ‘race’ with Alex which proved he is still teaching me something even on his last race weekend!”
TS040 HYBRID #2 (Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway)
Free practice 1: 6th (1min 45.485secs), 28 laps
Free practice 2: 5th (1min 43.931secs), 47 laps
Alex Wurz: “We did a big jump between first and second practice which was good and we are now where we expected to be. I was quite happy with the car over a long run. Considering everything we are pretty much at the optimum so from this point of view it was a satisfying session. Also, I was together on track with Kazuki at some point which was fun.”
Stéphane Sarrazin: “We tried a few things on the set-up and we are happy with the car. We are still pushing and concentrated because it is very good training for us. We want to give our maximum as a team and we take this race as a good opportunity to stay sharp for next season.”
Mike Conway: “There is not much to report from today, which was a standard practice day for us. We did various tests and tried out a few things on the set-up. The track conditions improved a bit from the first session but it is still pretty tough on tyre wear; there is a big drop off so you have to manage the tyres and the traffic.”