TOYOTA GAZOO Racing returned to FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) action today in the first practice sessions for the 6 Hours of Nürburgring, the fourth round of the 2016 season.

Located just 90km away from the team’s base in Cologne, the Nürburgring is the perfect place to bounce back from a frustrating start to the season which saw mechanical issues deny it victory at both Spa-Francorchamps and Le Mans.

A productive day on the 5.148km Nürburgring Grand Prix lay-out saw both cars focus on race preparation, meaning the overall fastest laps were only of limited relevance.

The #6 TS050 HYBRID of Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi

set the fourth fastest time of the day, 0.825secs off the pace-setting Porsche #1. The #5 of Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima was sixth.

The team gave a track debut to an ultra-high-downforce specification of the TS050 HYBRID, which has been developed specifically for the upcoming races where cornering takes priority over straight-line speed.

With these new aerodynamic parts to test, as well as the usual tyre and mechanical set-up work, today’s three hours of practice were particularly valuable to prepare for the race weekend.

Fortunately, both sessions took place in warm, dry conditions, aside from a short shower in second practice. TOYOTA took full advantage, completing a combined 155 laps, 798km, as solid progress was made in optimising the new package.

There will be one last chance to fine-tune the set-up during the 60-minute final practice session on Saturday morning (09.15) before qualifying (14.45) takes place for Sunday’s race, which begins at 13.00 local time.

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

Free practice 1: 5th (1min 42.593secs), 34 laps

Free practice 2: 6th (1min 42.325secs), 40 laps

Anthony Davidson: “It has been productive and the weather was kind so we could work on the set-up. We are all happy with the car on the long runs but I am keen to do some wet running as well because the Nürburgring weather could be predictably unstable. So far I think we look okay and I am happy with the balance of the car.”

Sébastien Buemi: “We had a good day and I’m pleased with the work we have done. This has been the first time to work with this aerodynamic package, which brings more downforce, so there is a lot of data to analyse. Our lap times are pretty competitive so I am confident for the weekend; it’s going well so far.”

Kazuki Nakajima: “The car felt pretty good, especially on the longer runs when I was happy with the balance and performance. Over one lap we can find more performance and get the car working better, but we are not far away. Today we were lucky with the weather but let’s see how it is for the rest of the weekend.”

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

Free practice 1: 6th (1min 43.635secs), 35 laps

Free practice 2: 4th (1min 41.822secs), 46 laps

Stéphane Sarrazin: “It has been an interesting day. With our new aero package, our car is now better on this kind of track. We did some useful set-up work and a tyre programme which is very important for the race. We are happy with everything. It will be a tough fight but we will do our best and I think we are all quite close.”

Mike Conway: “I think we are making solid progress with the car and we have found the right direction to get the most out of it. We know where we need to be so, all in all, we look okay. It’s the first time to drive the car in this configuration and we are constantly improving; there’s more to come.”

Kamui Kobayashi: “Today we did a lot of work on the car and generally it went well. We can still do more and improve the performance even further; there are some things we will be working on. We know that one lap is not our strong point so we are aiming for consistently quick laps in the race.”

Free practice 1 results:

1st        #2 Porsche (Dumas/Jani/Lieb)                    1min 41.703secs            34 laps

2nd       #1 Porsche (Bernhard/Webber/Hartley)   +0.047secs                    42 laps

3rd       #7 Audi (Fässler/Lotterer)                             +0.200secs                   30 laps

4th        #8 Audi (di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis)                +0.451secs                    42 laps

5th       #5 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing                  +0.890secs              34 laps

6th       #6 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing                 +1.932secs                35 laps

Free practice 2 results:

1st        #1 Porsche (Bernhard/Webber/Hartley)   1min 40.997secs         37 laps

2nd       #7 Audi (Fässler/Lotterer)                          +0.014secs                    35 laps

3rd       #8 Audi (di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis)              +0.139secs                    45 laps

4th       #6 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing               +0.825secs               46 laps

5th        #2 Porsche (Dumas/Jani/Lieb)                +0.946secs                    11 laps

6th       #5 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing               +1.328secs                40 laps