At the recent FIA WEC round at Spa Francorchamps, Racing24-7.net caught up with Mike Conway to have a small chat about this year’s car compared to last year’s car.
We asked him how the car was this year compared to the previous model of the Toyota Gazoo TS050 – Hybrid. His answer was:
“They kind of froze the hybrid system rules, so that’s not changed, but we’ve made some good upgrades in terms of the car, the engine and the tires. The car is really nice to drive, especially here around Spa. It’s a fast, flowing track, and it’s really rewarding when you get a lap together. It drives similar to what we have had the last few years, but obviously they have made a reduction in downforce, which the team had to try and recover. It has been hard, but I think they’ve done a great job.”
Driving a modern LMP1 car isn’t just about driving a car around the track. There are a lot of buttons with adjustment possibilities inside the cockpit today, so it is important that the driver feels comfortable, and knows instantly, when the engineer tell him to change a setting on the steering wheel.
“There has been some few little changes here and there, but you are still as busy as ever, playing the buttons. You just gotta be in auto pilot mode, pushing the buttons, and driving as well. It’s all to optimize the systems, manage temperatures – it can be kind of anything, really.”
At Spa we saw the Toyota low downforce package for the first time, and with Porsche having run that all year so far, it was the first time to compare the two cars. Interestingly, there wasn’t much of a laptime difference, but the tire-wear was different, with the low downforce cars sliding a bit more.
“It was really cool to see (that the three different aero packages with high and low downforce Toyota and low downforce Porsche were matching, editor). It’s the first time we have turned up with the same package. So to see that is good for Le Mans, I would say.”
Mike Conway and his teammate Kamui Kobayashi were the quickest car in the race, but lost out on their pitstop strategy, when there was a few Full Course Cautions, resulting in their sister car #8 sneak by them for the win. However, it was less than two seconds at the line, with Kobayashi catching Sebastien Buemi with several seconds per lap for the last bit of the race. If it was just Buemi easing off to get a photo finish, we will never really know, but #7 was the fastest all weekend long in Spa.
How Toyota Gazoo Racing will fare at Le Mans this year, only time will tell. After their heartbreak last year, the team is really focussed on winning it this year. This week they have been testing at Spa Francorchamps, before going to the official Le Mans test day next Sunday, ahead of the big race being run in three weeks’ time.