Toyota Gazoo Racing will race with three TS050 Hybrid cars for the first time during the second round of this year’s FIA World Endurance Championship this weekend (6 May), the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.
The team aims to repeat its winning success in the season’s opening race at Silverstone, buoyed by the fact Spa is considered a “home” race, just 75 miles from the base in Cologne, Germany.
The race is also significant for being the last event prior to the highlight of the WEC calendar, the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June. With this mind, the team will be testing out both aerodynamic configurations available for the cars under new championship technical regulations.
The reduced, two-man crew in the #7 car, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi, will use the high-downforce TS050 Hybrid with which they claimed pole position at Silverstone. Despite a period of rest, FIA doctors have assessed that José María López has not sufficiently recovered from his accident at Silverstone. Therefore López will not compete at Spa in order to ensure he returns fully fit at Le Mans.
Conway is looking forward to racing on one of his favourite circuits. He said: “The track itself is just really cool, with elevation changes, fast flowing corners and a huge variety of corners types. It is really challenging but I like it a lot. I hope that the package we’ve used at Silverstone will have a similar pace at Spa. There are definitely still things to improve but we are confident. I think it will be a close race again with Porsche, so we will stay focused.”
The #8 machine of Silverstone race winners and World Championship leaders Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima will also run high-downforce trim, which concedes top speed in favour of more cornering grip.
To help with preparations for Le Mans, the #9 car (below) will race in low-downforce specification, optimised for the long, fast straights which characterise the Le Mans circuit. The driver line-up sees Stéphane Sarrazin joining WEC debutant Yuji Kunimoto and, making a return to the team, Nicolas Lapierre.
Spa-Francorchamps is the oldest circuit on the WEC calendar and has been the scene of some strong performances by Toyota, including victory in the 2014 race. This year the team’s target is to race for another win while also accelerating its Le Mans strategy, which includes adjusting to the demands of running three cars.
Qualifying will take place on Friday 5 May and the race will get under way at 2.30pm local time (1.30pm UK time) on Saturday 6 May.