Toyota GAZOO Racing began their Le Mans week with a busy schedule for the team during free practice and qualifying session one, with their emphasis firmly on set-up development and tyre evaluation over long stints.
In free practice the team started out on a wet track, with both Toyota TS040 HYBRIDs leaving the pits on grooved wet tyres to begin four hours of fine-tuning and analysis before a dry line started to emerge through the session.
Within a few laps on slicks world champion duo Sebastien Buemi and Anthony Davidson immediately bettered the team’s best time from Test Day, however frequent showers and a lengthy red flag period saw their running interrupted. Despite this both cars ran trouble free, with the two TS040 HYBRIDs completing a total of 78 laps, a distance of 1063km.
In qualifying the evening sun greeted the drivers, with the team then starting to focus on long stints to better understand the tyre behaviour of the TS040 around the Circuit de la Sarthe. However, after the first part of the session, which saw the cars going faster than ever before around the current track layout, the session was interrupted at half distance by a red flag, reducing running time by around half an hour as safety barriers were repaired following an accident.
Having resumed with a deadline of midnight for the checkered flag both TS040s went back out, with Kazuki Nakajima in the #1 and Stephane Sarrazin in the #2 improving their times on a busy track.
“It was nice to finally drive some laps in the dry today after the wet conditions we experienced for most of the test day,” said Buemi. “The car felt nice to drive and we didn’t have any problems, so it’s been a decent start. We have focused 100% on race performance; given what we saw at Spa and in the test we were never going to focus on qualifying.
“There is still a long way to go this week and the story of Le Mans 2015 will be written on Saturday and Sunday, not in qualifying.”
For Sarrazin, the cars feeling for the race is heading in the right direction. “The car is feeling good for the race and we worked very hard for that,” said the Frenchman. “We improved the balance and understood more about the tyres, so it’s been a positive day, despite the final classifications.
“Porsche was very fast so congratulations to them for provisional pole position. We didn’t event go for a qualifying run as we are putting all of our effort into the race. We’ll keep working hard tomorrow and let’s see what we can do.”
Today sees the team focus more on qualifying pace after collecting plenty of data and setup information yesterday.