With the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship just around the corner, TCF caught up with defending world champion Anthony Davidson at the series’ London launch.
Davidson will share the #1 Toyota TS040 Hybrid with fellow world champion Sebastien Buemi and FIA WEC race winner Kazuki Nakajima, who moves over from the sister car line-up. The team will begin its title defence at next weekend’s 6 Hours of Silverstone, a race that Davidson and Buemi won last year alongside Nicolas Lapierre.
Having completed a rigorous winter testing programme Davidson is relishing the start of a new season, although he is inherently aware of the progress that the other LMP1 manufacturers have made.
“It’s nice to see our achievements reflected as a sticker on the car for the results from last year,” he said. “It does feel good to have the number one and we’ll be trying our very best to defend it but the competition have done a very good job this year, so I’m sure we’re in for a very big fight at Silverstone.”
“For me the biggest surprise [from the Paul Ricard Prologue] was seeing how far Audi have progressed, especially in terms of race pace. They had a very strong test and based on what we saw at Paul Ricard, if you were going to have a race there, I would have put my money on Audi having the best race pace. They looked really strong, but of course Silverstone could be completely different.”
The pre-season Prologue marked the first time that Toyota, Audi and Porsche had been able to compare their revised 2015 cars on the same circuit. After two days of testing Porsche emerged as the quickest manufacturer, while Davidson was the fastest of the Toyota drivers. The test gave the Toyota squad an opportunity to try separate set ups for the different circuits they will be racing at this season.
“It was the first time we had run the Le Mans downforce settings, and we had the perfect track to do that at, so we just tried dip the first toe in the water to determine the balance for Le Mans without any regard for lap time,” said Davidson. “It was more about the feel and the balance of the car for predicting what will happen at Le Mans.
“So the other car was really preparing for Silverstone with the high downforce set-up so then we were at the two ends of the spectrum. We went about testing in a very pragmatic way, and I hope that this will put us in good stead for Silverstone and Le Mans.”
As a member of Sky’s Formula 1 commentary team, Davidson has also taken interest in the FIA WEC’s own marketing strategy of maximising spectator interaction. He believes that the FIA WEC can take advantage of some of Formula 1’s shortcomings, and that the ACO’s current efforts are reflected positively in the trackside atmosphere.
“It’s true to say that the FIA WEC is a young championship – it’s been rekindled since the early days of the World Sportscar Championship and it’s great to be a part of it,” he said. “As a driver it feels like there’s a lot of energy there and there’s a big push to try and generate interest and I think they’ve got a great recipe, I really do.”
“Yes, airing six hour events and particularly a 24 hour event is a difficult task, but I like to think that in this day and age with social media and being able to watch races in a snippet-style format on tablets, phones, wherever you are – I think they can tap into that and do things that perhaps Formula 1 isn’t.”
“It’s being done in the same way that people were watching the London Olympics, by tapping into different categories. Then you need to market it properly as well which I think the ACO are trying to do. But it takes time to entice people and get them to understand the technologies in order to make them realise that there is actually something out there that isn’t Formula 1.”
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