Both sessions featured a TS030 HYBRID at the top of the standings, with the #7 leading the way in the afternoon before the #8 took the honours in the evening.
The final race event for the TS030 HYBRID fittingly features all six TOYOTA Racing drivers, with Kazuki Nakajima returning in the #7 alongside Alex Wurz and Nicolas Lapierre after missing Shanghai due to Super Formula commitments.
Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Stéphane Sarrazin in the #8 keep up their run of participating in every WEC event this season.
First practice began in sunshine and ended in twilight, giving drivers their first chance this weekend to experience the changing levels of visibility they will face during the race.
All six drivers had their chance to reacquaint themselves with the Bahrain track during the 90 minutes.
Alex, Nicolas and Stéphane are the only TOYOTA Racing drivers to have competed in Bahrain last year, with Stéphane racing in LMP2. Anthony’s last race in Bahrain came in 2008, Kazuki’s in 2009 and Sébastien’s in 2011.
The #7 concentrated on tyre and aerodynamic set-up evaluations during first practice, with Alex setting the fastest lap. The #8 focused on mechanical and aerodynamic set-ups and Stéphane took fourth.
Second practice took place in humid conditions and full darkness, with the track only partially illuminated by the new lighting system.
Kazuki and Sébastien completed long stints to begin the session. Nicolas took the wheel of the #7 but the red flags flew soon after when he hit the barriers at the final corner, damaging the right rear bodywork.
That was soon repaired and Nicolas, followed by Alex, Anthony and Stéphane, duly completed laps of night-time running to ensure all six drivers meet the regulatory requirements.
Sébastien’s best lap early in the session earned #8 the fastest time overall, with Kazuki taking third for #7.
Friday sees final practice (10.25-11.25) before qualifying (16.20-16.45). The race begins at 15.00 local time on Saturday.
TS030 HYBRID #7 (Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre, Kazuki Nakajima)
Free practice 1: 1st (1min 43.192secs), 40 laps
Free practice 2: 3rd (1min 44.793secs), 39 laps
Alex Wurz: “It was an interesting day for us. We ran through the programme and learned a lot. Now we have to put it all together for qualifying and especially the race. The weather and track conditions are very interesting; they change a lot. Between day and night the temperature drops and the humidity comes in. This causes quite a large change in the track characteristics. We have to correctly understand that and then address it.”
Nicolas Lapierre: “The first practice went quite well. We tried different things, different tyres and different aero set-ups. Combining with what we learned today and what we know from last year, I think we are in a competitive position. In second practice we did some long runs but unfortunately I made a mistake on the last corner. I went a bit too wide and crashed into the barrier so we lost a bit of time. That was disappointing but in the end we still had time to qualify all three drivers which was very important.”
Kazuki Nakajima: “It was nice to be back in the car and also to be back here in Bahrain for the first time in four years. I think I am a bit lucky because this year is not as hot as last year. I did a long run in the evening to experience the tyre degradation and I think we have some good data. We could compare the tyres and more or less we know what direction to take. The race pace looks promising. I think everybody is very close at the front so it looks like a tight race.”
TS030 HYBRID #8 (Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi, Stéphane Sarrazin)
Free practice 1: 4th (1min 45.151secs), 26 laps
Free practice 2: 1st (1min 44.516secs), 40 laps
Anthony Davidson: “Today was positive. All three drivers have a very similar feeling in the car which always helps us fine-tune the balance. The conditions were difficult. In first practice we were in the sun with warm temperatures and in the evening it was cooler and more humid. This really changed the characteristics of the car so we are being methodical how we set it up for qualifying and the race. We have a lot of ideas but it’s good to see we are in the fight once again.”
Sébastien Buemi: “The team set the fastest lap in both sessions and I had a good feeling in the car so I am happy. It was the first time for me to drive here in the night but with the new lighting system it was really nice. We did a good preparation for tomorrow. It is different to Shanghai because we have a three-day weekend here so we have more time to work on improving the car set-up for the race. The team did a strong job and overall it has been a positive day. Let’s see how it goes tomorrow.”
Stéphane Sarrazin: “It was a good day for us. We prepared for the race and improved the car between first and second practice. We are very happy with how it went. Sébastien set the fastest lap time in the second session which was good to see. But we are still pushing a lot to have a very good car for the race, especially considering how the conditions change here in Bahrain. We will work hard tomorrow to have a good package.”