Today’s first two practice sessions for the #8 car of Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Stéphane Sarrazin ran smoothly, with the TS030 HYBRID fastest in first practice with what turned out to be the quickest lap of the day.
Second practice saw a focus on endurance testing and the #8 ended the session in third on a track which holds happy memories for TOYOTA Racing, with the team having won its maiden race here from pole position 12 months ago.
Morning practice represented the first time a TS030 HYBRID has taken part in an official session since the chequered flag flew at Le Mans 10 weeks ago, although the team did complete a two-day test at Lausitzring earlier this month.
TOYOTA Racing brought a new high-downforce aerodynamic package to Brazil and today’s practice sessions were used to optimise set-up and evaluate tyres.
Modifications have been made to the front and rear of the TS030 HYBRID to generate increased levels of downforce, required to be competitive at the shorter circuits which make up the final five rounds of the WEC season.
The TOYOTA HYBRID System – Racing, which delivers a 300hp hybrid boost on acceleration, has also been optimised for the six-hour races, reverting to sprint race settings after the endurance challenge of Le Mans.
Anthony was at the wheel for most of the opening 90-minute session before Stéphane stepped in with 12 minutes remaining. The #8 took the chequered flag in first place with a time already faster than TOYOTA Racing’s 2012 pole position.
Stéphane, returning to the track where he won the 2007 Le Mans Series title, was back in the cockpit for a long run early in afternoon practice. After 50 minutes he handed over to Sébastien for his first LMP1 laps at Interlagos.
Of the TOYOTA Racing drivers, Sébastien has the most recent race experience of Interlagos, having competed in the Brazilian Grand Prix three times from 2009-2011. He set the team’s fastest lap of the session in the closing seconds.
TS030 HYBRID #8 (Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi, Stéphane Sarrazin)
Free practice 1: 1st (1min 21.881secs), 43 laps
Free practice 2: 3rd (1min 22.675secs), 57 laps
Anthony Davidson: “I am happy with the car today. The car had a good balance and the grip level was good. It felt pretty much identical to how it did at the last test. We went through a tyre programme in the morning which again replicated what we learned in Lausitzring. I feel like we are quite a good position in terms of correlation to our test so I am happy with our day. We focused on tyres mainly but we also rebalanced the car after the first few runs, modifying ride heights. We altered the mechanical balance and made it more driver-friendly, especially through traffic.”
Sébastien Buemi: “It was a positive day today and nice to be back at a race weekend with TOYOTA Racing after a long break. Interlagos is a short circuit; obviously there are a lot of cars on the track so traffic management is very important here. We had a very good first free practice then we learned a few things in the second session. We have to evolve the set-up with the conditions; the weather is getting hotter so we have to find the right set-up for that. It’s going to be a close fight and based on today it looks like we will be part of an exciting race on Sunday.”
Stéphane Sarrazin: “Today has gone very well and I am pleased with our performance. We spent the day preparing for the race and I did a very long run in the afternoon. The car feels good and I think our package looks pretty strong. This morning Anthony drove for most of the session and he was happy; this afternoon Sébastien is also happy. It was my first time to drive the updated car and I think the team did a great job with it. We can still improve the set-up and we will try to do this tomorrow before qualifying but nevertheless it’s a good start to our weekend.”
Saturday sees final practice (10.20-11.20 local time) before 25 minutes of qualifying, starting at 15.10. The six-hour race starts at midday on Sunday.