TOYOTA GAZOO Racing enters uncharted territory this weekend with its first trip to Mexico City for the Six Hours of Mexico, the fifth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).
Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima will drive the #5 TS050 HYBRID at the 4.304km circuit in the Mexican capital, where they will chase a first podium of the season. Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi complete the TOYOTA line-up in the #6 TS050 HYBRID.
Half of the team’s driver line-up – Sébastien, Stéphane and Mike – have already experienced parts of the Mexico City circuit, having raced on the 2.14km Formula E lay-out in March, when Sébastien finished on the podium.
Top-level endurance racing last visited in Mexico in 1991, with a 430km race for the penultimate round of that season’s World Sportscar Championship. TOYOTA did not participate in that race, but has competed at the track twice.
In 1990 neither TOYOTA 90C-V made it to the chequered flag as Johnny Dumfries/Roberto Ravaglia and Geoff Lees/John Watson retired due to technical issues. A year earlier, Dumfries/Watson had qualified third but retired in the race.
Although the event is again held at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, the circuit itself has changed significantly. The track is named after the Rodriguez brothers Ricardo and Pedro; ‘hermanos’ meaning brothers in Spanish. Both were prominent Mexican racers until separate fatal accidents.
The old circuit was famous for the long, slightly banked final turn, named Peraltada. This has been modified for the updated circuit and the final corners now pass through a baseball stadium, although the rest of the track follows the original lay-out.
At 2,285m above sea level, the circuit is the highest on the WEC calendar. The thin air at this altitude requires an ultra-high-downforce aerodynamic package to generate appropriate grip and additional cooling support for the engine and hybrid system.
Last month the ultra-high-downforce TS050 HYBRID finished in fifth and sixth at the Nürburgring on its debut, but TOYOTA is working hard for an improvement in Mexico on a circuit which should better suit the car’s characteristics.
Preliminary indications will come on Thursday when the cars are on track for a total of four-and-a-half hours during a test and two practice sessions. Final practice and qualifying come on Friday before the race starts at 13.30 local time on Saturday.
Toshio Sato, Team President: “Mexico represents a new challenge for us and all teams in WEC; we are all excited to go there to meet our Mexican fans. This race is the mid-point of our season and the start of the flyaway events. We want a strong performance and I believe we have the potential to achieve this. Even though we bring our ultra-high-downforce package to Mexico, we can expect some impressive top speeds due to the thin air. We have not run our TS050 HYBRID at such altitude before and the track is new to us so the team will be working hard in practice to prepare the car for the race.”
Anthony Davidson (TS050 HYBRID #5): “I’ve never been to Mexico before, let alone this track so I’m excited about this trip. I’m looking forward to this race very much because I’ve heard a lot of good things about the Mexican fans so I’m expecting a great atmosphere. My target is to at least get on the podium in our #5 car and I am hopeful we have the speed for this. We will be giving everything we’ve got to have a strong performance.”
Sébastien Buemi (TS050 HYBRID #5): “I’m happy to go there and to discover a new track. I think it’s going to be a great place for WEC; they’ve got lots of motorsport history and the fans there know a lot about endurance racing. I was in Mexico already earlier in the year and saw some of the track. The stadium section is really amazing and the fans are so enthusiastic. Nürburgring was a bit difficult for us, but we are confident that we can come back and fight.”
Kazuki Nakajima (TS050 HYBRID #5): “It is good we had plenty of time after Nürburgring to prepare for Mexico. As it’s a new track for WEC, I have been doing my homework and studying the lay-out. Now I feel well prepared and I can’t wait to experience the track for the first time. I heard that the fans in Mexico are really passionate so I am expecting a great atmosphere. I hope we can put on a good show for them and make it a successful weekend for WEC.”
Stéphane Sarrazin (TS050 HYBRID #6): “Whenever a series goes to a completely new track, it’s always very challenging and exciting. The practice sessions will be particularly busy because we want to get a lot of detailed information about how our car behaves on this track. The unusual factor in Mexico will be the altitude which makes it tougher for the drivers but I’m prepared for this. I’m feeling confident for this weekend and I hope we will be back on the pace.”
Mike Conway (TS050 HYBRID #6): “I’m looking forward to do the full Mexico circuit; it’s a fantastic venue and the Mexicans really enjoy motorsport so it should be pretty special for us. I’m happy I have already experienced the altitude there as this makes preparation a bit easier because I know what to expect. It’s going to be an intense week of work as we get used to the new track but I’m ready and I hope we can be back in the fight.”
Kamui Kobayashi (TS050 HYBRID #6): “This should be an interesting weekend because Mexico is a new track for all of us. The thin air is something else to consider and it will be interesting to see how this affects the cars and drivers. Our performance should be better than at Nürburgring but we have to wait to know exactly where we will be. We will be pushing hard to prepare a perfect car for the race, when I hope to be in the podium battle.”