The FIA World Endurance Championship season resumes for the fourth of eight races this year, following the traditional summer gap after the Le Mans 24 Hours.
TOYOTA Racing holds a one-point advantage in the Manufacturers’ World Championship while #8 TS040 HYBRID drivers Anthony Davidson, Nicolas Lapierre and Sébastien Buemi lead by 20 points the drivers’ standings.
The #7 TS040 HYBRID has a revised driver line-up this weekend, with Mike Conway replacing Kazuki Nakajima, who has schedule conflicts with his Japanese racing commitments. The Englishman drives alongside Alex Wurz and Stéphane Sarrazin.
Mike, who celebrated his 31st birthday last month, has already won races in North America this year, taking victory in IndyCar races on the streets of Long Beach and Toronto.
After utilising a dedicated Le Mans aerodynamic package in June, the TS040 HYBRID will return to the high-downforce configuration in which the #8 won the first race of the season, at Silverstone.
That package was put through its paces at a two-day test at Magny-Cours in August, during which Mike and Nico completed preparations for Austin.
The 1,000PS, four-wheel drive TOYOTA HYBRID System – Racing will have 3.76MJ of hybrid boost available at 5.516km Circuit of the Americas and this can be used at any point around the lap.
Action in Austin gets underway on Thursday with two 90-minute practice sessions (14.45 & 19.30), while Friday features a final one-hour practice (10.20) before qualifying at 18.35. Saturday’s race will run into the night, starting at 17.00.
Yoshiaki Kinoshita, Team President: “We have had a long time to think about what happened at Le Mans and this has only made us more determined to win the World Championship this year. Austin is the start of a busy second half of the season when we must be at our best to get the results we want. We are well prepared and ready for the challenge. I would like to welcome Mike to our race team. He is a quick and intelligent driver and I am looking forward to seeing him in action alongside the regular drivers. This weekend we go back to our high-downforce aerodynamic package; we saw how strong this was at Silverstone so we will be pushing to achieve the same success again in Austin.”
Alex Wurz (TS040 HYBRID #7): “It’s definitely time to go racing again; the second half of the season cannot come soon enough. This is the first time for me to race in Austin but I am very familiar with the track. Actually, I was a consultant on the lay-out so I really do know each corner inside out. It’s a fast, flowing track which promotes good racing and I am looking forward to experiencing it myself. After such a long summer break it is more important than ever that we are completely concentrated this weekend and make sure we get back into the routine quickly. It will be a tough fight but we know we have the car to win.”
Stéphane Sarrazin (TS040 HYBRID #7): “I have been keeping busy with different race and rally projects over the summer but nevertheless I am really looking forward to getting back behind the wheel of the TS040 HYBRID. Alex and I have a new team-mate this weekend; it will be good to work with Mike for the first time at a race weekend and I am sure we will be a strong line-up. I enjoy the Austin track and I like racing in the US; there is a nice atmosphere and the fans love motorsport. I expect another big fight between TOYOTA, Audi and Porsche and the fact we are racing into the night should make it even more special.”
Mike Conway (TS040 HYBRID #7): “I’m really excited to be racing the TS040 HYBRID for the first time, especially at the American round of the WEC. I spend a lot of my time in the US with my other racing commitments so I feel really at home in front of the American fans. I had a good test with the TS040 HYBRID in Magny-Cours last month which helped me adjust to the 1,000PS four-wheel-drive hybrid system, and I have also been over to TMG in Cologne for a simulator session. So I feel well prepared for my LMP1 race debut and I can’t wait to get started working with the team, as well as Alex and Stéphane, in Austin.”
Anthony Davidson (TS040 HYBRID #8): “It feels like such a long time since we were racing at Le Mans. For a racing driver it is massively frustrating to be out of the cockpit for three months so I am raring to go and I cannot wait for it all to start in Austin. It’s a great track; one that is really enjoyable to drive. We go to the US leading both championships and the target is clearly to extend our advantage this weekend. We know it will not be easy and I am sure our rivals have not stood still in the last three months but we are ready for the challenge.”
Nicolas Lapierre (TS040 HYBRID #8): “As I didn’t race last year in Austin, this will be my first time and I am really interested to see how it is to drive. It certainly looks like a great track and I’ve heard good feedback from my team-mates. I want to get back on the middle step of the podium. We had a great start to the season with the two victories but Le Mans was, of course, a big disappointment because we had the car to win but we ended up third. That is in the past now and I am 100% focused on winning the World Championship.”
Sébastien Buemi (TS040 HYBRID #8): “I’m fully motivated. We go into this race leading the World Championship and we want to stay there for the rest of the season. There is tough competition but we should be optimistic because the TS040 HYBRID has been the car to beat this season. The track should suit our car pretty well and I have good memories of last year when we had a great battle for the win. It gets very hot in Austin but this year we are racing at night which should help a bit. It will also make it pretty special for the fans so I hope we will have a lot of support.”
TOYOTA Racing at Austin:
2013 #8: Qual. 3rd; Race 2nd.