TOYOTA GAZOO Racing kicked off round two of the 2022 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) with first practice at the iconic Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium this afternoon.
Spa has been one of the team’s most successful circuits, with six wins from nine races. A sixth consecutive victory is the target this weekend following a difficult start to the season in Sebring, when the GR010 HYBRID Hypercar’s long winning streak came to an end.
Preparations began with one 90-minute practice session in afternoon sunshine, during which all competitors experienced the renovated Spa-Francorchamps circuit for the first time. Although the lay-out of the 7.004km circuit remains unchanged, sections have been resurfaced and new run-off areas installed.
The #7 GR010 HYBRID of World Champions Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López, using an entirely new chassis following an accident at Sebring, was eighth fastest, although its session ended slightly early due to a minor technical issue.
Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa, in the #8 GR010 HYBRID, ran through a different programme and ended the day 13th.
Both cars focused on preparing their set-ups for Saturday’s six-hour race, rather than single lap times, and the results reflected this. The programme consisted of comparisons between the different Michelin tyre specifications and analysis of aerodynamic, mechanical and hybrid set-ups.
Two practice sessions on Friday will allow further adjustment to the cars prior to a qualifying session in the evening which will determine the grid for Saturday’s race, the final contest before the highlight of the WEC season, the Le Mans 24 Hours in June.
Kamui Kobayashi (Driver, car #7): “It was good to be back on track again; Sebring was quite a long time ago. It was a straightforward session for us which ran okay until we lost some time at the end. It’s difficult to know where we are in terms of performance because everyone has a different programme in first practice. The car felt okay but we still need to work on the balance to find some improvements. We will look at all the data and make some changes before the remaining practice sessions, then let’s see what we can do in qualifying.”
Mike Conway (Driver, car #7): “I enjoyed being back in the car again, particularly here at Spa. We tried a few different things in practice and had a small issue towards the end, so we didn’t get quite as much track time as we hoped. We’ll look into the data from both cars before tomorrow’s sessions and then we’ll go again. As usual after the first session, there’s plenty more to come from our car.”
José María López (Driver, car #7): “It was good to be back in the car even though I didn’t do a lot of laps in that session. But the event is just starting and there’s a lot more running to come so I’m looking forward to doing more laps tomorrow. It’s too soon to draw any conclusions based only on first practice. We tried to get data on a lot of different set-up items so we have everything we need to improve.”
Sébastien Buemi (Driver, car #8): “We managed to do quite a few laps during the first session. I was expecting more interruptions but luckily that didn’t happen. It was dry which helped us to test quite a few things and we tried a different tyre compound compared to the #7. Friday is a big day with three sessions so I am looking forward to it. Now we have to analyse the situation and optimise the car.”
Brendon Hartley (Driver, car #8): “It was a pretty clean session on our car and we ran through a few test items. There’s still a bit of speed to find but it was a good session and it was nice to drive on the track for the first time since the changes. It’s less bumpy now through Eau Rouge and Raidillon but I quite like a bumpy track as it adds character. The run-off areas with gravel everywhere make you think before you attack the brakes which is nice as a driver because you have to judge the risk and reward differently.”
Ryo Hirakawa (Driver, car #8): “Today’s session went quite well. I had a full course yellow but I still managed to do quite a few laps. I haven’t been here at Spa since 2017 so it was nice to be back. I quickly felt comfortable and started to build up my pace step by step. By the end of the session it was pretty good so I feel positive. There are still areas to improve and we will keep pushing.”
|Free Practice 1:|
|1st||#31 WRT (Geleal/Frijns/Rast)||2min 5.475secs||35 laps|
|2nd||#22 United Autosports USA (Hanson/Albuquerque/Owen)||+0.063secs||30 laps|
|3rd||#23 United Autosports USA (Lynn/Jarvis/Pierson)||+0.410secs||32 laps|
|4th||#38 JOTA (Gonzalez/Da Costa/Stevens)||+0.501secs||9 laps|
|5th||#708 Glickenhaus Racing (Pla/Dumas/Derani)||+0.758secs||31 laps|
|6th||#5 Team Penske (Cameron/Collard/Nasr)||+0.960secs||30 laps|
|8th||#7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing||+1.401secs||23 laps|
|13th||#8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing||+1.796secs||35 laps|
The 2022 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WEC Media Kit has been published and, along with rights-free video material and photography of TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s motorsport projects, can be found at https://www.tgr-dam.com