TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s penultimate race weekend of the 2015 World Endurance Championship began with a busy day of practice for the Six Hours of Shanghai today.
Returning to the scene of last year’s one-two victory, the #1 TS040 HYBRID of Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima lined up alongside Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin and Mike Conway in the #2.
Both cars completed two trouble-free 90-minute sessions, finishing fifth and sixth in each as the team worked on finding the best set-up compromise for the 5.451km Shanghai International Circuit.
After heavy, persistent rain yesterday, morning sunshine was a welcome sight for the start of first practice, with air temperatures at a mild 18°C.
The session began slightly later than planned due to barrier repairs following an incident earlier in the day, but when the green flags finally flew the team wasted no time in getting to work.
Fine-tuning the set-up of the TS040 HYBRID for the particular demands of this circuit was the priority. That meant evaluating different mechanical and aerodynamic settings, whilst also adjusting the hybrid recovery and boost configurations.
With two victories from three races, TOYOTA has been the pace-setter in Shanghai since the first WEC race in China in 2012, but this season has been more of a challenge.
Practice results reflected the established pattern in 2015, with the World Champions lacking lap time compared to rivals Audi and Porsche, although first practice already saw both TS040 HYBRIDs go faster than last year’s quickest race lap.
Second practice saw more of the same as the team focused on comparing the different compounds of slick tyres. The leading TS040 HYBRID, the #2, ended the day 2.262 seconds slower than the pace-setting #17 Porsche.
At 5pm and with the sun beginning to set on the day in Shanghai, the chequered flag flew to end second practice with the two TS040 HYBRIDs having completed a total of 161 laps, covering 877km.
The set-up and tyre work will be concluded tomorrow in final practice (9.00-10.00) before a 20-minute qualifying session (14.00) decides the grid for Sunday’s race.
TS040 HYBRID #1 (Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima)
Free practice 1: 6th (1min 47.724secs), 37 laps
Free practice 2: 6th (1min 47.903secs), 46 laps
Anthony Davidson: “It was good to have a full day of dry conditions. I always enjoy driving around this circuit so it was nice to be out there. We did some positive tyre work and I am pretty confident with the results and our direction. I’m looking forward to tomorrow when we think we have a good set-up to get the most out of the car.”
Sébastien Buemi: “I am quite happy with today’s sessions. We did a lot of laps which is positive. We know our situation but we still try to push very hard, to the limit of our package and we believe if there is some rain on Sunday we might be able to fight a bit more. We are trying to find the best set-up which allows us to be as close as possible to the opposition.”
Kazuki Nakajima: “It was nice to have a completely dry day after yesterday’s rain. We made a good start and the car feels better compared to last year; it is nice to feel the progression. I didn’t do a tyre comparison but I think we have enough data for tomorrow and the race. Tomorrow will be difficult as the weather looks dry but maybe that will change on Sunday.”
TS040 HYBRID #2 (Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway)
Free practice 1: 5th (1min 47.603secs), 32 laps
Free practice 2: 5th (1min 47.373secs), 46 laps
Alex Wurz: “It was a usual Friday for us. We ran through the programme and carried out various tests. The car balance was not so bad, but it is a similar picture to the other tracks in terms of the lap time gaps. I expect a nice fight between our two cars over the weekend. I would love to have some varied weather; that would be cool.”
Stéphane Sarrazin: “It was an interesting day in terms of set-up. We improved the car and found a decent balance. I think we are where we have to be in that sense. We need to put everything in place to be as close as possible to our opposition. We will fight with our sister car; it is a good battle and this keeps us sharp.”
Mike Conway: “Everything went fine today and we did a lot of running, which means we have plenty of data to work with. The car feels okay but we will try to find a bit more in third practice tomorrow. I expect it will be tough again in qualifying but we will do our best and keep fighting for the race.”