Two TS030 HYBRIDs were on track for the first time since Le Mans, with the #7 of Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre and Kazuki Nakajima joining #8 drivers Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Stéphane Sarrazin, ever present in 2013.
The first 90-minute session saw the #8 end the session fastest with its sister car in fourth. However Anthony’s fastest time was later deleted due to a pit lane speeding infringement, dropping the car to third. In afternoon practice the #7 and #8 were fourth and third respectively.
Nicolas and Sébastien started morning practice, but a red flag just 15 minutes in disrupted matters. After a 17-minute delay, the tyre and set-up evaluations continued, while Alex and Anthony started their stints around the halfway point.
Anthony set the fastest lap inside the final half hour before handing the #8 over to Stéphane. With a few minutes remaining of a productive session, Kazuki took over the #7 on a track where he won the Super GT race back in April.
While Alex and Nicolas drove the high-downforce-specification car during a three-day 2014 tyre test session at Magny-Cours last week, Kazuki was behind the wheel for the first time since the #7 finished fourth at Le Mans in June.
After Nicolas began second practice, Kazuki enjoyed a longer stint as he continued to re-acquaint himself with the TS030 HYBRID, while Stéphane also had a lengthy spell behind the wheel of the #8.
That came to an end when Sébastien took the wheel before Anthony closed out the session, with Alex in the other car. When the chequered flag fell, just 0.004secs separated the two TOYOTA Racing cars.
TS030 HYBRID #7 (Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre, Kazuki Nakajima)
Free practice 1: 4th (1min 28.962secs), 35 laps
Free practice 2: 4th (1min 27.981secs), 47 laps
Alex Wurz: “It was an interesting day running through different programmes with the two cars. We can make progress faster than with only one car; that is another good aspect of having both cars here. The circuit changed throughout the day in terms of grip and car balance. We have to look at the data and work out a good set-up tomorrow. We are in a tough competition; the lap times are very tight.”
Nicolas Lapierre: “It was good to be back behind the wheel today. The team did a good job with the two cars trying different things and we got some interesting data. The long runs went well and the pace seems very close between the two Toyotas and two Audis so we can expect a close race. Qualifying could be tough but in the race we should be in a better position. It looks promising; so far, so good.”
Kazuki Nakajima: “It is nice to drive the car for the first time since Le Mans and it’s also the home race for us so I am very motivated. In the morning I drove only two laps and the balance needed improvement. We did some set-up work over lunch and we got a lot closer to where we want to be. We still have room for improvement but I am sure we can do another step for tomorrow.”
TS030 HYBRID #8 (Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi, Stéphane Sarrazin)
Free practice 1: 3rd (1min 28.777secs), 39 laps
Free practice 2: 3rd (1min 27.977secs), 52 laps
Anthony Davidson: “It was a good day today; the car was performing well in both sessions. We chased the circuit as it evolved and the day progressed; we will look at the data and further improve the set-up overnight. Hopefully it will stay dry because it seems we are pretty competitive. So I am quite happy and hopefully we can make the car even better for tomorrow.”
Sébastien Buemi: “It was a positive session for us because we seem to be quite competitive compared to the Audis. As our home event, this is an important race for us so we are focusing as much as possible on the performance and the race set-up. We are quite confident we can have a good race. Now we just need to analyse the data and make sure we get the most out of the car.”
Stéphane Sarrazin: “I am happy with the car after today’s two practice sessions; we have a good balance. I did a long run which went well. We still need to find some improvements and we will be working on that in the morning before qualifying. But we have a good feeling with the car and the battle is very close. It will be an exciting race for sure, which is nice for the Japanese fans.”