TOYOTA GAZOO Racing completed a useful opening day in Austin, Texas with the first practice sessions for the 6 Hours of Circuit of the Americas, the sixth round of the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).
At the end of three hours of practice, the #5 of Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima was the fastest TS050 HYBRID in fifth, just 0.899secs behind the fastest lap of the day.
The #6 crew of Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi, who are second in the drivers’ World Championship following their podium in Mexico two weeks ago, were sixth.
Today’s two 90-minute practice sessions allowed Anthony to return to the cockpit of the #5 TS050 HYBRID after missing the Mexico event to recover from bruised ribs. He reported no significant issues and will continue to participate in Austin.
Both TS050 HYBRIDs are again in ultra-high-downforce aerodynamic trim, as at the Nürburgring and Mexico City. But the 5.513km Circuit of the Americas has different characteristics so the team used practice to fine-tune the cars for race performance.
That meant adjustments to the aerodynamic and mechanical set-ups as well as work on the various hybrid control settings to extract the most efficient performance from the 1,000hp powertrain.
Heat is a significant factor in Austin and has an impact on several aspects of the car. Tyre performance and durability were analysed along with the various cooling solutions for driver and car, with air temperatures hitting 34°C for first practice.
Even for the second practice session, which took place entirely in darkness, the temperatures dropped only slightly as the intensive race preparation work continued in tough conditions for drivers and crew.
By the time the chequered flag waved at 9.30pm local time, the two TS050 HYBRIDs had completed 143 laps, 788km to generate a lot of useful data which will guide the engineers as they seek the optimal set-up.
Friday sees a final 60-minute practice session before the grid for Saturday’s race is decided in qualifying.
TS050 HYBRID #5 (Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima)
Free practice 1: 6th (1min 49.361secs), 35 laps
Free practice 2: 5th (1min 48.134secs), 41 laps
Anthony Davidson: “It was great to be back in the car again. I am feeling better all the time the more laps I do and I will be okay to drive for the rest of the week, no problem. We had a successful night session, adjusting the balance of the car which improved since first practice. I look forward to tomorrow when we can continue working on the car to see how far we can go with it.”
Sébastien Buemi: “It was a positive day for us. I didn’t do so many laps in the night session, when the car was pretty good. We need to keep pushing to find more time but we are in a decent position. My best lap was eight tenths behind but I lost a bit of time so I think for the race we are looking okay and that is the main point.”
Kazuki Nakajima: “I had quite a long run in the night session and that went well. We have some areas to improve but at the end of the day we feel like we have a reasonable car. We did some changes to the balance during the session and Séb put in a quick lap at the end which is positive for the race. Let’s see what we can do.”
TS050 HYBRID #6 (Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi)
Free practice 1: 5th (1min 49.709secs), 29 laps
Free practice 2: 6th (1min 49.369secs), 38 laps
Stéphane Sarrazin: “It was really hot out there! Actually when you drive it is acceptable but when you are stopped in the pits with no air flow it is incredibly hot. It was an interesting day on a busy track with a lot of traffic but I didn’t take any risks. We spent the day working on set-up for the race to have a quick car on Saturday. We will see how much more performance we can find tomorrow.”
Mike Conway: “This evening we all did some night running and we gave Kamui some more time in the car. We were constantly working to improve the balance and I think we did that. Car #5 looked quite good at the end so it will be interesting to see what they have found. The car feels strong and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do tomorrow and in the race.”
Kamui Kobayashi: “My first time in Austin in an LMP1 car started quite smoothly, without any trouble. We focused on setting up the car; it went okay but we still have work to do on the balance for the race. The gap to the front is relatively close and we are usually much stronger in race pace, so we will see on Saturday exactly where we are.”
Free practice 1 results:
1st #8 Audi (di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis) 1min 48.453secs 31 laps
2nd #2 Porsche (Dumas/Jani/Lieb) +0.047secs 36 laps
3rd #7 Audi (Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer) +0.436secs 32 laps
4th #1 Porsche (Bernhard/Webber/Hartley) +0.795secs 37 laps
5th #6 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +0.908secs 35 laps
6th #5 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +1.256secs 29 laps
Free practice 2 results:
1st #8 Audi (di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis) 1min 47.235secs 45 laps
2nd #7 Audi (Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer) +0.095secs 23 laps
3rd #1 Porsche (Bernhard/Webber/Hartley) +0.724secs 43 laps
4th #2 Porsche (Dumas/Jani/Lieb) +0.895secs 42 laps
5th #5 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +0.899secs 40 laps
6th #6 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +2.134secs 38 laps