Toyota Gazoo Racing gets the 2018-19 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season started this week with the Total 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. Fernando Alonso will make his WEC race debut in the #TS050 hybrid car he shares with last year’s Spa winners Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima while the #7 line-up of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López are reunited for a second season.
Saturday’s opening race, which takes place only around 120 km from the team’s base in Cologne, Germany, marks the start of a new era for Toyota Gazoo Racing in endurance, one in which the performance and efficiency of its hybrid electric powertrain will be tested like never before.
Following six years of competition with hybrid competitors from fellow manufacturers in LMP1, this year Toyota takes on a field of eight private, non-hybrid cars who benefit from significant performance enhancements, such as 49% more fuel energy per lap, 37.5% more fuel flow and 45 kg lower minimum weight.
To compete under those conditions requires Toyota’s hybrid electric powertrain to again demonstrate the development progress which has seen a 35% reduction in fuel consumption at Le Mans since 2012. Such advancements contribute to Toyota’s ongoing efforts to make ever-better road cars for customers, with more than 11million hybrid electric road cars sold since 1997.
Toyota Gazoo Racing has embraced the challenge and prepared its TS050 HYBRID cars for the new season, with more than 25,000 km of winter testing completed prior to Spa, where the clear target will be to win for a third time at the classic Belgian circuit.
Toyota has raced six times in WEC at Spa, which is considered a second home event for the team, behind Fuji Speedway, as the track is located only an hour’s drive from the Toyota Gazoo Racing technical centre in Cologne, Germany.
The Spa race is traditionally a warm-up to the Le Mans 24 Hours in June as it offers the final chance for teams to compete with their cars before the biggest race of the year. This year the race has the additional honour of also being the first race of a season which includes eight events covering 84 hours of racing which finish at Le Mans 2019.
The 1,000 hp TS050 Hybrid will compete in low-downforce Le Mans specification, which sacrifices aerodynamic grip in corners for higher top speed on the long straights of Spa or La Sarthe. Last year the low-downforce TS050 Hybrid set the fastest single lap time of the weekend, when Stéphane Sarrazin in the #9 lapped quicker than either of the high-downforce cars in qualifying.
The first track action of the new season takes place on Thursday, with two 90-minute practice sessions in the afternoon. Friday sees final practice followed by qualifying while Saturday’s race begins at 1:30pm local time.
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