TOYOTA GAZOO Racing completed a productive and positive official start to the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season during the two-day Prologue test at Monza, Italy.
The team brought two updated TS050 HYBRIDs to Monza for the public launch of the car on Friday followed by two days of testing in the presence of all other WEC competitors.
It therefore represented the first opportunity to compare performance with LMP1 rivals Porsche, although outright fastest lap times were not the top priority on a weekend of testing various set-ups and settings.
Over five sessions over two days, including a night test on Saturday, the TS050 HYBRIDs recorded a combined 642 laps, 3719km, and set the overall fastest lap of the event, on Sunday afternoon with Nicolas Lapierre at the wheel.
This weekend also marked the first public appearance of Super Formula champion Yuji Kunimoto as a TOYOTA driver in WEC, while Nicolas made his return to the team he last drove for in 2014. Both showed that they are integrating quickly, with Yuji also making continuous progress behind the wheel on his first-ever visit to Monza.
Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi, in the #7, were on hand to fine-tune settings of the low-downforce TS050 HYBRID which will make its race debut in the second round of the season, at Spa-Francorchamps.
Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima represented the #8 crew, with #9 drivers Nicolas and Yuji gaining valuable running time before their race debuts at Spa. Sébastien Buemi, José María López and Stéphane Sarrazin appeared at the car launch on Friday but departed early to compete in the Mexican round of Formula E.
With five tests and over 30,000km already achieved with the new car this year, the Monza test was the final chance to gain additional data prior to the opening race of the season at Silverstone in two weeks.
While the team has not previously visited Monza as part of its hybrid WEC project, the circuit holds happy memories for TOYOTA as the scene of its first-ever World Championship race win, when Geoff Lees and Hitoshi Ogawa drove the TS010 to victory in the 1992 Monza 1,000kms, part of the World Sportscar Championship.
There are only a few days until departure for Silverstone, so the team will return to its base in Cologne to study the data from this weekend’s test and put the finishing touches to its preparations for the 2017 season.
Toshio Sato, Team President: “It has been nice to visit a new circuit and this gave us an opportunity to test our low-downforce car at a very high-speed track. This is good preparation for Le Mans so it was important that the cars ran reliably, to help us get as much data as possible. Thanks to the fans who came to watch the Prologue; they provided a nice atmosphere and really helped create excitement for the start of the season. Now we are looking forward to fighting with Porsche from the first round of the season. We have seen encouraging signs here in Monza with our low-downforce car, now we will be working flat-out to prepare our high-downforce package for Silverstone.”