TOYOTA GAZOO Racing heads to Great Britain this week for the eagerly-anticipated opening round of the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship, the 6 Hours of Silverstone.
TOYOTA, starting its fifth season in WEC, will compete with its new TS050 HYBRID race car for the first time, taking on LMP1-Hybrid rivals Porsche and Audi as a nine-round battle for World Championship honours begins.
The TS050 HYBRID features new 2.4litre direct-injection turbo engine combined with 8MJ hybrid system to meet the challenge of WEC regulations, which limit fuel flow and total fuel energy.
The team will use the high-downforce specification TS050 HYBRID to meet the particular demands of Silverstone’s high-speed, sweeping corners.
Both TOYOTAs have a home driver in the cockpit, with 2014 World Champion Anthony Davidson leading the #5 car alongside Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima. Mike Conway flies the British flag next to Stéphane Sarrazin and Kamui Kobayashi in the #6.
Kamui is making his race debut for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing, after spending 2015 as test and reserve driver. However, he is no stranger to Silverstone having raced four times in the British Grand Prix, finishing sixth in 2010.
With its mix of high-speed corners, Silverstone represents a unique challenge for drivers and engineers while the British weather is traditionally unpredictable, as witnessed in 2014 when a heavy downpour ended the race early.
In bright sunshine last year at Silverstone, the lead TS040 HYBRID completed 201 laps, or 1186km, at an average of 197km/h including time lost for seven scheduled pit stops, during the six hours on its way to third place.
TOYOTA has had a car on the podium at every Silverstone WEC race it has entered and expects to continue that run this weekend, demonstrating significantly improved competitiveness compared to the 2015 season.
Toshio Sato, Team President: “I am happy that the WEC season will finally start. We experienced a difficult 2015 and since the final race of last year I have been eagerly anticipating the race debut of our TS050 HYBRID. It is a very new car, so there is more to come in terms of performance and reliability. But I think we will be back fighting at the front. A close fight would be great for the WEC and the fans; this series is based on innovation and action-packed racing. We have certainly innovated with our TS050 HYBRID thanks to the effort from everyone in the team, in Cologne and Higashi-Fuji. I am looking forward to a great race this weekend at Silverstone.”
Anthony Davidson (TS050 HYBRID #5): “I’m really looking forward to racing at my home race. I’ve won and been on the podium many times at Silverstone so I’m looking to repeat those good performances and start the year on a positive note. Silverstone is a special track for me; it’s only 15 minutes from my house so it is literally a home race for me. It’s a unique track with a lot of motorsport history so it’s magical to drive there in an LMP1 car. The new car is feeling good. We made a lot of changes compared to last year and we already see the improvement in terms of performance. Although we are hoping for the win, you never know until race day how competitive you are, so it will be exciting.”
Sébastien Buemi (TS050 HYBRID #5): “It’s a new car and a new season so I’m really looking forward to start in Silverstone. Anthony and I have been really successful there with a podium last year, a win in 2014 and another podium in 2013. It is a special track because it’s very quick but you need a lot of downforce, which is completely the opposite of Le Mans. At Silverstone the biggest issue is often the weather. It is still early in the year so conditions can change quickly and you have to be sharp when deciding tyre choice. It’s unpredictable and this can obviously have a big impact on the results. I hope we can have a strong start to the season; I can’t wait to start the fight.”
Kazuki Nakajima (TS050 HYBRID #5): “It’s exciting to be heading to the first race and with our new TS050 HYBRID I am sure we will be battling at the front much more than last year, so I’m looking forward to it. Silverstone feels a bit like going home for me as I used to live not far from the track. I like the circuit a lot and it is one of my favourites. Although they have changed the layout over the years, it is still a special track with a lot of high-speed corners so for a driver it’s really exciting to drive there. It’s difficult to predict where we are going to be but I hope to fight for the win. Last year we were at least at the podium so I hope to repeat that result or even better.”
Stéphane Sarrazin (TS050 HYBRID #6): “We are all motivated to start the season. The car looks good and it’s our first race with the TS050 HYBRID so we are all really looking forward to this weekend. We have improved the car a lot since the roll-out and this process will continue at Silverstone; the car has a lot of potential and we are working hard to get the most out of our package. Silverstone is a very fast track and I like it a lot. It’s important to push and have a good rhythm otherwise you lose a lot of time. I will be pushing as always. We all want to win, but we don’t know yet what we can do so let’s see after this weekend.”
Mike Conway (TS050 HYBRID #6): “Obviously Silverstone is the home track for me and I like it a lot. I have raced pretty much everything there so I know it very well and I’m looking forward to going there. It’s a very fast, flowing track and the new lay-out is really cool. You need a strong high-downforce package and at the same time there is not so much braking so it’s a challenge to recover all the hybrid energy. It will be interesting to find the right balance and of course interesting to see where we stand against our competitors. I want to have a good battle with the sister car and all the cars out there; we definitely want to fight for the win.”
Kamui Kobayashi (TS050 HYBRID #6): “I’m excited to be making my race debut for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing in the World Endurance Championship. Silverstone is a track I know pretty well from Formula 1 and GP2 but it will be the first time for me to drive an LMP1 there. It is a unique track with some very fast corners so I expect the TS050 HYBRID to be really fun. It will be interesting for me to manage the traffic as an LMP1 driver for the first time, but there are overtaking points. Testing has given me a lot of confidence so now I am really looking forward to start the season and be part of this team. Everybody has worked so hard to be ready for this race; now we can’t wait to get started.”
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing in 6 Hours of Silverstone:
2012 #7: Qualifying 3rd; Race 2nd.
2013 #7: Qualifying 1st; Race 4th. #8: Qualifying 2nd; Race 3rd.
2014 #7: Qualifying 1st; Race 2nd. #8: Qualifying 5th; Race 1st.
2015 #1: Qualifying 4th; Race 3rd. #2: Qualifying 6th; Race 4th.