12th June 2018
Mike Conway and his Toyota Gazoo Racing team are ready for the challenge of the Le Mans 24 Hours this week, targeting victory in what is the second round of the 2018-19 FIA World Endurance Championship.
British driver Mike Conway teams up once again with Kamui Kobayashi and José María López in the No7 car, a combination that saw the team secure pole position for last year’s race and running at the front until a clutch failure during night brought an end to their 24-hour race.
Having scored a one-two finish in the season-opening race at Spa last month, the team expect to be fighting for victory in Toyota’s 20th appearance at Le Mans. They are well-prepared, having completed more than 15,500 miles of pre-season testing to hone the cars’ performance and reliability.
Toyota Gazoo Racing have proved their speed at Le Mans in recent years, including just missing out on winning the race in 2016 when a technical problem halted the leading car on the penultimate lap, and setting a new lap record to claim pole position last year. The team’s task now is to meet the endurance challenge of Le Mans and become only the second Japanese manufacturer to take victory.
Conway said: “We have prepared as well as we can do, I believe, so we have to go to Le Mans and execute everything as planned. We are stronger and better prepared than before so I cannot wait. It is always a special atmosphere to drive at Le Mans as you can only drive the track once per year. The fans are always excited and I am sure it will be a week to remember.”
This year, the team will be using around 35 per cent less fuel than in 2012 when they entered its first hybrid car, achieved thanks to constant improvements in the efficiency of the hybrid electric powertrain.
The Toyotas are permitted 35.1kg of fuel for each section of the race, roughly enough for 11 laps of the 8.5-mile circuit. Other, non-hybrid cars in the LMP1 class weigh up to 45kg less than the Toyotas and will complete 10 laps from their more generous fuel allocation. This means that although they are more powerful, they require longer and more frequent pit stops.
At Spa, the first race under the new regulations saw Toyota win by two laps, gaining an advantage from its significantly quicker pit stops. But at the recent official Le Mans test day, Rebellion Racing recorded a lap time more than four seconds quicker than any previous non-hybrid LMP1 car, raising the prospect of an exciting and competitive race.
The 2018-specification TS050 Hybrids have already completed more than 1,700 miles around the La Sarthe circuit and set the fastest lap time during official testing. Le Mans week will get underway on Wednesday with a four-hour practice session, followed by two hours of qualifying from 21:00 (BST). Further qualifying will follow on Thursday with two-hour sessions at 18:00 and 21:00. First place on the grid will be determined by the fastest lap achieved during any of the sessions, with Toyota out to claim its fourth pole position. The race will get underway at 14:00 on Saturday.