TOYOTA GAZOO Racing completed a hard day’s work on a hot afternoon in Austin, Texas when practice got underway for the 6 Hours of Circuit of the Americas, the sixth round of the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).
Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López in the #7 were the lead TS050 HYBRID in third place after two 90-minute practice sessions, 0.959secs behind the pace-setting Porsche #1.
Sébastien Buemi, Stéphane Sarrazin and Kazuki Nakajima were fourth quickest in the #8 TS050 HYBRID.
Stéphane, substituting for Anthony Davidson, will complete a unique full set this weekend when he will race the #8 TS050 HYBRID. In his two previous races this season, he has already driven the #7 and #9 cars at Le Mans and Spa-Francorchamps respectively.
In those events, Stéphane competed with the low-downforce TS050 HYBRID, so opening practice was his first taste of the high-downforce package. However, he is far from a newcomer to the Austin track, having finished on the podium here in 2013 and 2016.
During today’s practice sessions, the team worked through an extensive task list, designed to maximise car performance for the particular characteristics of the 5.513km circuit and the hot temperatures in Texas.
The temperature for both sessions never dipped below 30°C, with a peak of 34°C in second practice, and conditions are expected to be similar for the rest of the event. Therefore analysis of performance and degradation of various tyre compounds was an important element of today’s work.
Additionally, various aerodynamic and mechanical set-ups were compared while engineers also fine-tuned the hybrid recovery and boost solutions in the search for maximum performance from the 1,000hp powertrain.
Despite a puncture for the #8 car during first practice, the sessions ran smoothly and delivered important data which the team must use to improve performance after a challenging day in terms of lap times.
TS050 HYBRID #7 (Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, José María López)
Free practice 1: 4th (1min 49.314secs), 38 laps
Free practice 2: 3rd (1min 46.819secs), 43 laps
Mike Conway (TS050 HYBRID #7): “The balance of the car has been a bit difficult; that has been the main issue. We need to solve that to find some more lap time and then it will look better, I’m sure. Tyre wear is going to be the key for this race; being able to double stint the tyres without losing performance is very important.”
Kamui Kobayashi (TS050 HYBRID #7): “I enjoy this track a lot, particularly the high-speed sections where you really feel the downforce of an LMP1 car. Practice has been okay but clearly not an amazing start for us. We are trying to optimise the car and testing out different things; it is getting better but there are still areas to improve.”
José María López (TS050 HYBRID #7): “This is my first time to drive here so it was a learning experience for me today, but I love this circuit. In terms of our performance, we have started better than in Mexico. We still need to work hard because the car wasn’t really easy to drive. We will keep pushing and try to be as competitive as we can.”
TS050 HYBRID #8 (Sébastien Buemi, Stéphane Sarrazin, Kazuki Nakajima)
Free practice 1: 3rd (1min 48.584secs), 34 laps
Free practice 2: 4th (1min 48.839secs), 44 laps
Sébastien Buemi (TS050 HYBRID #8): “It’s difficult to say where we are compared to Porsche but on the evidence of today, we don’t look quicker that’s for sure. I hope tomorrow we find more lap time so we can have a good fight. The track has changed a bit compared to last year, with a few more bumps, so we need to adjust to that.”
Stéphane Sarrazin (TS050 HYBRID #8): “It’s really amazing to be back in the car; a great feeling even if we were a bit down on the Porsches today. I really enjoyed working with the team again, and with Sébastien and Kazuki. We are working for the race to optimise everything. We are giving our best then we will see what we can achieve.”
Kazuki Nakajima (TS050 HYBRID #8): “It has been a very hot day and I enjoyed driving on this track again. The car feels nice to drive, with more grip than we had in Mexico and the balance is pretty good but still we are lacking lap time. We need to push hard and improve the pace for the race.”