Sebring Starts for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing began its 1000 Miles of Sebring event with the opening practice sessions for the 2022 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season-opener at the historic Florida venue.
Following a two-day Prologue test at the weekend, the season kicked off for real at the 6.019km circuit, built on a former air force training base, where American endurance racing began in 1950.
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing began its 10th season of WEC competition with a pair of one-hour practice sessions, during which the effect of Balance of Performance adjustments, intended to limit the GR010 HYBRID’s performance, were apparent.
Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa, in the #8 car, were the fastest of the GR010 HYBRIDs, recording the third fastest time of the day, 1min 50.267secs, in first practice.
The #7 car of World Champions Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López was fifth following a lap of 1min 50.633secs, also registered in the morning.
That session was disrupted by a heavy rain storm which created tricky conditions for the drivers, although the circuit had dried by the end. Five of the team’s six drivers participated, with Mike the only one not to drive as Kamui and Jose shared the hour-long practice.
Another 60 minutes in the afternoon gave a further chance to optimise mechanical and aerodynamic set-ups, as well as comparing Michelin tyre compounds. The team also continued to adjust to a higher deployment speed for the hybrid motor imposed by Balance of Performance updates, which mean it now activates only above 190km/h.
Mike split the afternoon session with José in the #7, while Brendon and Ryo shared the sister #8 car to make maximum use of the available time. In temperatures of 30°C, the session ran mostly to plan, with only a minor incident with an LMP2 car briefly disturbing the programme for the #7.
Lap times in second practice were slower than the morning. The #8 GR010 HYBRID ended the session in fifth with the #7 car eighth.
The team has a further opportunity to fine-tune the settings of the GR010 HYBRID during a one-hour practice at lunchtime on Thursday, before the grid for the 1000 Miles of Sebring will be set during an evening qualifying.
Kamui Kobayashi (Driver, car #7):
“It’s nice to be back in the car at Sebring and to begin preparations for the race. The practice sessions were shorter than usual today so I only drove in the first session, when we had a lot of rain. We felt this was the best way to use the time and get the most data. It was a tricky day and we need to improve the balance before final practice tomorrow. We will keep pushing to make the car better and be ready for the race, which is what really counts this week.”
Mike Conway (Driver, car #7):
“I didn’t drive much today and the laps I did were not ideal. The car was quite difficult to drive in the afternoon session. We have to look into the reasons why and come back better tomorrow. It was more difficult than the Prologue and this is probably due to the different temperatures, as well as the other series running on the track which affects the grip level. We’ll look into all the data and work how we can improve.”
José María López (Driver, car #7):
“We have been learning as much as we can today and it’s not been easy. We knew we would take a hit here from the Balance of Performance and we struggled a bit on our car. Our main focus is to address any issues and be ready for the race. We are confident that we can fight for the win if we do a perfect race in terms of getting the right balance, making no mistakes and handling the traffic well. So we are staying positive.”
Sébastien Buemi (Driver, car #8):
“It is always a bit difficult to assess the first practice sessions but it looks like we are a bit closer to the LMP2s compared to the Prologue so we have done a bit of a better job. The wind has changed massively, especially into turn one where there is s a lot of tail wind and it pushes the car wide. So in the end the track is a bit slower but we are a bit quicker, I think. We will keep working; we still have tomorrow so we continue pushing to maximise the situation.”
Brendon Hartley (Driver, car #8):
“I drove this morning in the wet conditions and it was incredibly challenging around here with the different track surfaces, the bumps and the standing water. It was great to get a few laps in those conditions to get familiar in case we have a wet race but you definitely need to be awake around here in the wet. This afternoon we had a good run and tried some different tyre compounds to prepare for the race. It was quite a smooth day for our car.”
Ryo Hirakawa (Driver, car #8):
“Today was completely different to last week in terms of the temperatures. Last week was much colder and there was a different wind direction. With the warmer weather today, the car behaved very differently and it was really good to understand this. Probably we will have similar warm conditions in the race so it was helpful to get some experience. The car feels like it is getting better and better so I think we are nearly ready for the race.”
|Free Practice 1:|
|1st||#708 Glickenhaus Racing (Pla/Dumas/Briscoe)||1min 49.738secs||16 laps|
|2nd||#36 Alpine Elf Team (Negrao/Lapierre/Vaxivière)||+0.525secs||8 laps|
|3rd||#8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing||+0.529secs||25 laps|
|4th||#41 Realteam by WRT (Andrade/Habsburg/Nato)||+0.739secs||22 laps|
|5th||#7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing||+0.895secs||22 laps|
|6th||#9 Prema Orlen Team (Kubica/Deletraz/Colombo)||+1.330secs||25 laps|
|Free Practice 2:|
|1st||#36 Alpine Elf Team (Negrao/Lapierre/Vaxivière)||1min 50.512secs||26 laps|
|2nd||#23 United Autosports USA (Di Resta/Jarvis/Pierson)||+0.528secs||24 laps|
|3rd||#22 United Autosports USA (Hanson/Albuquerque/Owen)||+0.546secs||21 laps|
|4th||#41 Realteam by WRT (Andrade/Habsburg/Nato)||+0.732secs||26 laps|
|5th||#8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing||+0.868secs||28 laps|
|6th||#9 Prema Orlen Team (Kubica/Deletraz/Colombo)||+0.883secs||27 laps|
|8th||#7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing||+0.991secs||25 laps|