TOYOTA GAZOO Racing experienced a difficult day at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez as practice began for the 6 Hours of Mexico, the fifth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).

An accident for the #6 TS050 HYBRID of Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi during the morning test caused monocoque damage which prevented any further running. Stéphane was unhurt and the car will be ready in time for third practice and qualifying.

Additionally, car #5 found itself reduced to just two drivers following Anthony Davidson’s withdrawal from the Mexico event.

Anthony is recovering from bruised ribs sustained during a test at Magny-Cours last month. He drove several laps during the morning test to evaluate his recovery but a joint decision was made that he will take no further part in the event.

That will ensure he is fully recovered in time for the 6 Hours of Circuit of the Americas on 17 September when high temperatures make it essential for each car to have its full complement of three drivers.

The day was already scheduled to be a busy one, with a test in the morning to give teams more time to acclimatise to the 4.304km track, which is new to the WEC calendar.

With the #6 pit crew working hard to change the monocoque following Stéphane’s accident, Sébastien and Kazuki took on the burden of a busy test programme during the remaining two free practice sessions.

As well as the normal challenges of adapting a car to a new circuit, Mexico City places additional demands on the team due to the thin air at high altitude which affects downforce levels and cooling to the brakes and powertrain components.

The TS050 HYBRIDs are fitted with extra cooling solutions for this race and these options were evaluated during the three sessions today, along with aerodynamic, mechanical and powertrain settings.

Track conditions evolved throughout the day. The morning session cleaned away dust and dirt so the cars benefited from increasing grip levels, which continued through first practice. Rain just before second practice washed the circuit clean and presented slightly different track conditions again for the drivers.

At the end of four-and-a-half hours of track action, the #5 TS050 HYBRID was fifth fastest having completed a total of 113 laps, 486km.

TS050 HYBRID #5 (Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima)

Collective test: 6th (1min 31.159secs), 27 laps

Free practice 1: 5th (1min 27.901secs), 41 laps

Free practice 2: 5th (1min 26.714secs), 45 laps

Anthony Davidson: “It is disappointing to come all the way here and then not be able to race but it’s the right decision. I wasn’t comfortable in the car this morning and there is no point to take any risks, especially with Austin coming up. It’s not a problem to race here with two drivers but it would be impossible in Austin due to the high temperatures. So I’ll be a frustrated spectator for the rest of the week but I know Séb and Kazuki will do a good job.”

Sébastien Buemi: “Today was a mixed one for the team. Obviously not good for car #6 and unfortunate that Anthony can’t participate. But the good thing was that Kazuki and I could complete a lot of laps. I’m quite happy with how it went. The track improved a lot throughout the day; we had a lot of sliding at the start then the grip picked up. It is a new track for everyone so we had to learn a lot in a short amount of time. In the end we looked okay so we’ll see what we can do from here.”

Kazuki Nakajima: “It was a long day with three sessions from morning to evening. We tested many different things on the car and it was getting more and more comfortable to drive. Now we need to analyse everything from today and maximize the car performance. I’ve enjoyed experiencing this track for the first time; it is a fun circuit to drive because the walls are so close and it’s quite a twisty lay-out. The section from turn seven to 11 is challenging as well.”

TS050 HYBRID #6 (Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi)

Collective test: 5th (1min 30.790secs), 19 laps

Stéphane Sarrazin: “Unfortunately I had an incident in the last corner. I was in fifth gear and I lost the car over the kerbs; I made a mistake. Today it was important for us to learn the track so it was not the time for that to happen, but it actually never is. Huge thanks to the mechanics who had to do this big job to get the car ready again for tomorrow. We will do our best from here and we will push to score good points.”

Mike Conway: “Today didn’t go to plan for us. The track is pretty cool though. It was really dirty to start with but it’s quite a good lay-out and a lot tighter than you think; the acceleration time between the corners is short. That also means it’s tricky with traffic and hard to get a clear lap. My initial impressions are good but getting a clear lap could be hard so that will be a challenge in qualifying.”

Kamui Kobayashi: “It was a very short day for us in car #6; I only did a handful of laps. Obviously it’s not ideal because this is a new circuit but that’s the situation and we have to make the best from it. Third practice will be important for us to learn the circuit and get the right set-up, but the other car did plenty of laps so that will help, I’m sure. We are staying positive and will fight for a good race.”

Collective test results:

1st        #1 Porsche (Bernhard/Webber/Hartley)   1min 26.847secs       34 laps

2nd       #8 Audi (di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis)              +0.554secs                    35 laps

3rd       #2 Porsche (Dumas/Jani/Lieb)                  +0.820secs                   32 laps

4th        #7 Audi (Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer)         +1.435secs                  33 laps

5th       #6 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing                        +3.943secs                    19 laps

6th       #5 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing                        +4.312secs                    27 laps


Free practice 1 results:

1st        #7 Audi (Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer)         1min 26.705secs           47 laps

2nd       #8 Audi (di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis)              +0.194secs                      49 laps

3rd       #1 Porsche (Bernhard/Webber/Hartley)  +0.243secs                   52 laps

4th        #2 Porsche (Dumas/Jani/Lieb)                 +0.500secs                     52 laps

5th       #5 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing                       +1.196secs                      41 laps

6th        #13 Rebellion (Tuscher/Kraihamer/Imperatori)  +5.737secs     39 laps


Free practice 2 results:

1st        #2 Porsche (Dumas/Jani/Lieb)                   1min 25.810secs          51 laps

2nd       #1 Porsche (Bernhard/Webber/Hartley)  +0.248secs                   55 laps

3rd       #8 Audi (di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis)                 +0.710secs                    55 laps

4th        #7 Audi (Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer)         +0.878secs                    45 laps

5th       #5 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing                        +0.904secs                    45 laps

6th        #13 Rebellion (Tuscher/Kraihamer/Imperatori) +5.187secs       38 laps