Mike Conway is ready to defend his FIA WEC Driver’s Championship lead this weekend as he and his TOYOTA GAZOO Racing team resume the 2019-2020 season with the six-hour Lone Star Le Mans race, at the Circuit of the Americas.
The WEC returns to the Texas track for the first time since 2017 as a replacement for the cancelled race in Sao Paulo, Brazil, which had been scheduled for 2 February and TOYOTA GAZOO Racing heads to Austin searching for its first-ever win there.
This weekend’s race is the fifth of eight in the 2019-2020 season and TOYOTA GAZOO Racing begins the second half of the campaign with a 41-point lead over Rebellion Racing in the teams’ World Championship.
Mike and his #7 TS050 HYBRID teammates, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López, lead the drivers’ standings by eight points from their #8 stablemates and consequently, the #7 car will again compete with maximum success handicap in Austin, while the #8 car has 0.56secs per lap less handicap as a result of the championship points gap.
Since the team’s last visit to the Circuit of the Americas, it has won Le Mans twice and earned a teams’ and drivers’ World Championship double with its history-making TS050 HYBRID. The Austin track is one of only three venues, alongside Mexico City and Nürburgring, in the modern WEC era at which TOYOTA has not won, with a best result of second achieved in 2013.
Unlike previous WEC visits to Austin, which took place in September and were characterised by hot, humid weather with regular thunderstorms, this week will be much cooler, making the practice sessions particularly important to discover Michelin tyre performance and degradation in the February conditions.
The 5.513km is a favourite amongst the drivers, with turns 3 through 6 reminiscent of Silverstone's high-speed run through Maggotts/Becketts or the S Curves at Suzuka, with turns 12 through 15 mimicking Hockenheim's stadium section.
The team will have its work cut out to complete its practice programme due to the compressed format in use this week. All track action will take place within two days, meaning four hours of practice and qualifying on Saturday, followed by the race from midday on Sunday.
“The Circuit of the Americas is one of my favourite tracks because it is really fast and flowing. Sector one is a lot of fun and the rest of the circuit is also pretty challenging. I haven’t driven there since 2017 and it seems like the track surface has got a bit bumpier since then; let’s see what it’s like when we get there. Austin itself is a great city so I’m looking forward to racing there again.”