TOYOTA READY TO FIGHT BACK IN WEC
British ace Anthony Davidson insists that his Toyota Gazoo Racing team has the tools to fight for FIA World Endurance Championship victories again this year, but possibly not at Silverstone’s opening round this weekend.
Toyota has worked solidly over the winter to develop its new TS050 Hybrid LMP1 challenger, with which it hopes to challenge world champion Porsche and multiple champion Audi Sport.
The Japanese team was humbled last year as both the 919 Hybrid and R18 e-tron quattro made massive gains in lap time, relegating the 2014 world champion team to distinctly third best every weekend.
Toyota has reacted by adopting a new turbocharged petrol engine and battery energy storage system for this year. Davidson, who will share his TS050 with Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima, told Motorsport News that the team’s outlook for this year was far more positive.
“It’s early to say to what extent we have turned things around with the new car, but the feeling is very positive so far,” said Davidson. “This time last year we knew we were up against it. We’d seen Porsche and Audi’s lap times and we were so blatantly off the pace. This year is a total turnaround in that respect as we’re feeling positive with our pace and we know we’ve closed the gap.”
Toyota’s build process for the new machine has been only a matter of months. Davidson said the team’s Silverstone performance won’t represent the car’s true pace.
“We’ve only had six months to totally redesign the engine and hybrid package and every component is new – even the steering wheel is new,” he added.
“At the moment the focus is on Le Mans, so Silverstone may be a bit of a learning exercise to help us get ready for the big one in France.”
Porsche comfortably topped the WEC Prologue group test in Paul Ricard recently, with Toyota setting the third fastest time – just 0.8s off the fastest 919 Hybrid.
“The Prologue is difficult to read but it gives you a feel for the pecking order,” added Davidson. “Porsche is always strong there, so we take the times with a pinch of salt. But we have a brand new car that we’re learning. The change from the old supercapacitor to the battery changes the way you think as a driver, but the basics in the car remain the same.
“The key thing will be seeing which brand has managed to retain the most power from their engines as we’re allowed less fuel per lap this season.” For a full technical insight into the new TS050 Hybrid see page 16.
Davidson is leading Brit