Following its one-two victory in the FIA World Endurance Championship season opener at Spa-Francorchamps, Toyota Gazoo Racing set the pace at the official 24 Hours of Le Mans test on Sunday.
Fernando Alonso who shares the #8 Toyota TS050 HYBRID with Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima set the fastest lap of the day, 3mins 19.066secs.
The test was the first time that Alonso had the chance to experience the Circuit de la Sarthe for real at the wheel of a TS050 HYBRID, following several simulator sessions to prepare for his Le Mans debut.
Alonso commented, “It was a perfect day for us as a team. We prepared for this test in the best way possible before the big race in two weeks time. The car felt good from the first lap, and everyone was happy straight away. Then it was about getting familiar with the circuit;
“I have been in the simulator and studied onboard laps from previous years, but it’s always different on the real track which feels perfect for these cars. It was an interesting day and a lot of fun.“
The time set by Alonso was 0.614secs quicker than the first non-hybrid LMP1 the second-placed #3 Rebellion, while the #7 Toyota of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López ended the test third. In total, the two TS050 HYBRIDs completed 202 laps, 2,752km, on a day of trouble-free running despite three red flags and multiple safety car periods.
Despite finishing the day fastest, Sébastien Buemi revealed that it wasn’t perfect for him, “It was a positive day with a lot of running and no reliability issues. From my side it was a bit more difficult because I was not on the track at the right time so I didn’t get the most mileage.
“Still it was enough to get a feeling so we can analyse the data and do all the normal preparations. We have a week to check everything and fine-tune the set-up before we come back for the race.”
Kazuki Nakajima added, “It was exciting to jump in the car again at Le Mans. The car has felt quite good since the morning, when the track conditions were surprisingly good. I enjoyed that session but in afternoon most of my driving was affected by safety car periods. Anyway, we will probably face safety car periods in the race so this was useful preparation.”