TOYOTA GAZOO Racing began its 2016 Le Mans 24 Hours challenge with a promising day’s work in the official test at the Circuit de la Sarthe, raising hopes of a close fight in the 18-19 June race.

The #5 of Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima set the fastest lap for a TS050 HYBRID, with a time of 3mins 23.197secs, the fifth quickest of the day and 1.822secs slower than the pace-setting Audi #8. The #6 of Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi was sixth.

After a year of intensive work in Cologne and Higashi-Fuji to improve on a disappointing 2015 and bring to Le Mans a completely new car, including 2.4litre turbo engine and 8MJ battery hybrid system, today’s test provided encouragement.

Both cars significantly improved on the TOYOTA times from this test last year, despite a 7.5% reduction of fuel consumption required by regulations, with the #5 TS050 HYBRID recording a quickest lap 2.124secs faster than the 2015 best.

The cars also demonstrated endurance, completing a total of 177 laps, 2412km, with the #6 car completing more laps than any other LMP1 car around the 13.629km Circuit de la Sarthe.

As part of the TS050 HYBRID’s development, team advisor and ambassador Alex Wurz, a two-time Le Mans winner who has tested the car several times already this season, returned to the cockpit for five laps in the #6 today.

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 permitted before practice starts on Wednesday 15 June.

Today’s test was therefore of vital importance to the team as it adapts to the low-downforce specification TS050 HYBRID, which will make its race debut at Le Mans.

The new package is designed to reduce drag and allow higher top speeds, which in turn contribute to regenerating 8MJ of energy under braking for release later as performance-enhancing hybrid boost.

TS050 HYBRID #5 (Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima)
Test practice 1: 5th (3min 23.197secs), 39 laps
Test practice 2: 6th (3min 25.324secs), 42 laps

Anthony Davidson (TS050 HYBRID #5): “It’s nice to be back here at Le Mans and to be driving the TS050 HYBRID. We can feel it is a big step forward on last year’s car. It feels like it has a better balance and the 8MJ hybrid boost is great around this track, where straight-line speed is so important. But it’s also important to keep stability and momentum through the fast corners so we have worked hard on the balance. We still have work to do of course, but I am pleased with the amount we have been able to cram into this one day of testing.”

Sébastien Buemi (TS050 HYBRID #5): “We covered quite a few laps so it has been an interesting and busy day for us. Now we need to analyse the data and understand where we can improve for the race. We always want to go quicker and we are not yet where we want to be, but it’s promising and I am happy with how it has gone. The TS050 HYBRID feels good here and now I am looking forward to getting behind the wheel again in race week.”

Kazuki Nakajima (TS050 HYBRID #5): “I enjoyed driving here again. We had a positive day and it was very helpful that the weather stayed dry so we could do a lot of laps. I did a long run in the afternoon and this gave us a lot of useful data regarding the tyre choice. Our set-up has been improving constantly through the day and I think we did all that we needed to. Performance-wise we looked pretty good; much better than last year which is a big credit to everyone in the team.”

TS050 HYBRID #6 (Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi)
Test practice 1: 6th (3min 23.721secs), 53 laps
Test practice 2: 5th (3min 24.182secs), 43 laps

Stéphane Sarrazin (TS050 HYBRID #6): “The team has made a big effort to get ready for Le Mans this year and we can see the big step we have made with the TS050 HYBRID. It’s a pleasure to experience the hybrid powertrain on this track. It has been a good day for us. We worked a lot on the set-up and we achieved what we wanted; a strong car with nice balance. There is still work to do before the race to improve our set-up but I am sure we can fight this year at the 24 Hours.”

Mike Conway (TS050 HYBRID #6): “Thanks to the team for getting the cars here and prepared; I know how hard everyone has been working these last few weeks. It was good to get quite a lot of laps in today; it’s what you need around here as you never get to test on this track. I am pretty happy with the balance of our car. I didn’t get any really clear laps but it was more about getting the balance right, not outright lap time. We haven’t tried any low fuel or new tyre runs so there’s more to come.”

Kamui Kobayashi (TS050 HYBRID #6): “I think my first experience in Le Mans with the TS050 HYBRID has gone well. We are making progress and we managed to complete plenty of laps. The target today was to get a lot of data, especially as we have our low downforce aerodynamic package. So it has been a good day and it gives me a positive feeling for the race week. I am enjoying my first Le Mans as a TOYOTA driver and I am really happy to be here.”

Alex Wurz (Team Advisor and Ambassador): “It was great to be back in the car at this track, which is just fantastic. I tested the car regularly over the winter so I am relatively familiar with it. As a retired racing driver, to have the chance to drive one of these amazing LMP1 hybrid prototypes here meant it was a really cool day for me and I thoroughly enjoyed it. But of course I was here to give feedback to the team and we did the tests we had planned and it all went well.”

Test practice 1 results:
1st #2 Porsche (Dumas/Jani/Lieb) 3min 22.334secs 42 laps
2nd #1 Porsche (Bernhard/Webber/Hartley) +0.221secs 43 laps
3rd #7 Audi (Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer) +0.427secs 46 laps
4th #8 Audi (di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis) +0.463secs 47 laps
5th #5 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +0.863secs 39 laps
6th #6 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +1.387secs 53 laps

Test practice 2 results:
1st #8 Audi (di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis) 3min 21.375secs 39 laps
2nd #1 Porsche (Bernhard/Webber/Hartley) +0.895secs 46 laps
3rd #2 Porsche (Dumas/Jani/Lieb) +1.078secs 41 laps
4th #7 Audi (Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer) +1.213secs 6 laps
5th #6 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +2.807secs 43 laps
6th #5 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +3.949secs 42 laps