For the first time in FIA World Endurance Championship history, Spa-Francorchamps hosts the opening round of the season, giving teams only one event to prepare for the Le Mans 24 Hours.
As a result, Toyota GAZOO Racing is competing with low-downforce TS050 HYBRIDs in the same specification as they will use at La Sarthe in June, all while looking for improvements from their new driver, Fernando Alonso.
Formula 1 legend and WEC rookie, Fernando Alonso has been making steady progress with the Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 Hybrid LMP1 car. The initial free practice session on Thursday was the first time that Alonso had experienced traffic while driving an LMP1 car.
Thursday saw Alonso getting a feel for the car while working with his team to dial in the Toyota ahead of the Friday qualifying sessions. When asked about how he was getting on with driving the WEC challenger, Alonso said “The car is obviously slower than an F1 car in the corners here, especially after Eau Rouge when the boost comes in, the acceleration is fantastic. We have a good consistency with the tyres so I enjoyed a lot and hopefully I will enjoy tomorrow as well and hopefully take the pole position”.
Both Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima put in some consistently fast laps in the number 8 car, with both drivers clearly enjoying having Alonso onboard as their teammate for the season. Buemi felt that the initial session was successful and was impressed with how well the car performed, “I enjoyed it today, especially the good weather here in Spa. We know how precious that is. I liked being back in the car after a long winter break and it was the first time in an official session with Fernando. Overall it’s been a really positive day.”
Nakajima, who did the least amount of laps in the number 8 Toyota, went on to say, “It went pretty well today. There are still some improvements we can make on the balance but the car is fun to drive, and I enjoyed the day. I didn’t do so many laps, but that’s part of endurance. I feel like I want to drive more which is a good sign. I’m ready to fight for the start of the new season, and I’m excited. Let’s see the competitive level compared to the others tomorrow.”
The first qualifying session begins on Friday afternoon.