TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s 6 Hours of Mexico event got off to a short start with the opening practice session for the fifth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).
Unlike other races, which begin with two 90-minute sessions on the opening day, the Mexican timetable featured only one session today, with second practice moving to a packed Saturday schedule.
On an afternoon of mixed weather conditions, the #7 TS050 HYBRID of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López finished the day third, 1.003secs behind the leading Porsche #1. The #8 TS050 HYBRID of World Championship-chasing Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima was fourth.
The session started at 5.20pm local time, just minutes after the end of a heavy rain shower, which left the track very wet in the opening minutes, with standing water in many places.
Air temperatures of 20°C contributed to improvements as the session went on, but the inconsistent track conditions limited the possibilities for aerodynamic and slick tyre evaluations, with only the final 30 minutes run on a dry track.
Nevertheless, the team could make progress on both cars with hybrid recovery and boost strategies, as well as understanding the behaviour of the wet and hybrid intermediate tyres, which could be valuable considering the forecast for more rain during the weekend.
With only 90 minutes of practice available and time needed between stints to make set-up changes, no driver was able to spend a significant amount of time behind the wheel.
Lap times fell considerably during the final third of the session after the two TS050 HYBRIDs switched to slick tyres but do not represent the full performance potential, with the session’s fastest lap two seconds away from last year’s pole position time.
Therefore TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s target this weekend is still to earn pole position and race victory to boost its chances in both World Championships.
TS050 HYBRID #7 (Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, José María López)
Free practice 1: 3rd (1min 28.029secs), 35 laps
Mike Conway (TS050 HYBRID #7): “It was good to do some wet running so we are prepared for all eventualities this weekend. There are some improvement points which we didn’t have time to test during the session. It is a decent starting point but we need to work on some areas that will improve our lap time.”
Kamui Kobayashi (TS050 HYBRID #7): “It is difficult to say where we are after just one session in changing conditions. I didn’t even get a clear lap due to traffic. We will work on the balance, as usual after a Friday. Tomorrow is a different day and we will see then how we can improve the performance.”
José María López (TS050 HYBRID #7): “It was good to get used to the different conditions and run all three types of tyre because we will have more of that weather later in the weekend. Our pace was okay but it’s just the start; we need to see how we progress during the weekend.”
TS050 HYBRID #8 (Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson, Kazuki Nakajima)
Free practice 1: 4th (1min 29.131secs), 44 laps
Sébastien Buemi (TS050 HYBRID #8): “We experienced all conditions, from wet to dry and I am happy about that because it may happen again during the weekend. It was a different Friday, with only one session, so we don’t have as much data as usual. Now we will prepare the car as best as possible for Saturday, which will be a busy day.”
Anthony Davidson (TS050 HYBRID #8): “It was really nice for me to get back in the car after a long break since Nürburgring and to drive this circuit properly for the first time. The car felt quite good and I got into a decent rhythm. There is still a long way to go and the main thing is I was happy with the balance of the car.”
Kazuki Nakajima (TS050 HYBRID #8): “The conditions were tricky and I went through all the tyre types. It wasn’t easy to drive out there and we still have some work to do to improve our lap times in the dry. The car felt pretty good which is encouraging and now we will work to find more performance.”