TOYOTA GAZOO Racing finished in the top three positions at the end of a productive official test day at the Circuit de la Sarthe for the Le Mans 24 Hours. Kamui Kobayashi set the fastest lap of the day in the #7 TS050 HYBRID. His time of 3mins 18.132secs was more than five seconds quicker than the best TOYOTA lap at the 2016 test day.
The #8 TS050 HYBRID of World Championship leaders Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima was second quickest, 1.887secs behind following a positive day of set-up development and tyre comparisons.
There were three TOYOTAs at the top of the timing sheets, with Nicolas Lapierre, Yuji Kunimoto and José María López putting the #9 TS050 HYBRID third. As well as an intense programme of technical adjustments and comparisons, today’s test was the first time for Yuji and José María to drive on the Circuit de la Sarthe.
Both drivers have experienced the circuit virtually in the team’s driving simulator so they arrived well prepared and then consistently set competitive lap times. For José María, the test also provided final confirmation that he has fully recovered from the back injury which prevented him competing at Spa four weeks ago.
The Circuit de la Sarthe on the outskirts of Le Mans consists partly of public roads and is closed for most of the year. Today’s two four-hour sessions are the only testing allowed before practice starts on Wednesday 14 June.
It was therefore an extremely important day for the team to fine-tune the low-downforce-specification TS050 HYBRID, which made its race debut with the #9 crew at Spa-Francorchamps last month.
The team’s busy programme was helped by fine weather which allowed it to complete a combined 304 laps, covering 4,143km on a day when the #8 and #9 cars were the only ones in the 60-car field to complete more than 100 laps of the 13.629km circuit.
The team will now prepare for a brief shakedown test on the shorter Bugatti Circuit on Tuesday prior to official scrutineering on Monday 12 June, which takes place in the city centre of Le Mans. The race itself begins on Saturday 17 June.
José María López (TS050 HYBRID #9): “It was good to be back in the car after missing Spa. I really enjoyed driving at Le Mans; I had a nice and smooth session for my first time here. I learnt more about the specific challenge of this track and happily the car was working well. There is still a long way to go but it has started well.”