World Champions TOYOTA GAZOO Racing experienced a challenging first day of the 4 Hours of Shanghai when practice began in China for the third round of the 2019-2020 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).
The TS050 HYBRID holds the fastest lap of the Shanghai International Circuit, 1min 42.526secs set in 2017; five seconds quicker than the team’s best from its first visit to Shanghai in 2012 despite using 37.5% less fuel per lap. But today’s opening practice session showed that the World Championship-winning car faces an extreme test of its efficiency this weekend.
The maximum success handicap, achieved by a 45% reduction in hybrid power, 7.5% drop in fuel energy and 28kg minimum weight increase compared to 2018, meant the TS050 HYBRIDs ended the day around three seconds slower than their best practice times from last year, and more than five seconds away from the lap record.
The #8 TS050 HYBRID of Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley was the fastest TOYOTA in second place with a time of 1min 48.188secs, 0.061secs behind the pace-setting #6 Ginetta, while Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López were fourth in the #7 car, +0.852secs off top spot.
“It was a smooth day from our side,” said Hartley. “We were working with set-ups and strategies because the car is very different to drive when so much hybrid energy is removed; we have made some progress but we have to accept that we will be slower than the non-hybrid LMP1 cars. It’s clear we have a tough weekend ahead but we are doing our best to optimize everything.”
The TOYOTA GAZOO Racing crews are tied on points at the top of the drivers’ World Championship after a win apiece from the two races so far. That means both have identical success handicap, creating the expectation of an exciting battle on Sunday, made more intriguing by the pace of the non-hybrid LMP1 cars.
With a strong challenge expected this weekend, today’s three hours of practice were an important chance to fine-tune the TS050 HYBRIDs and extract the maximum performance possible in terms of aerodynamic and mechanical set-up, as well as fuel and energy strategy.
Both cars completed a trouble-free day of practice, recording a combined 915km, to give the team plenty of information upon which to base the set-up and strategy for Sunday’s race, the TS050 HYBRID’s final appearance in China.
Free practice 1 results:
1st #1 Rebellion (Senna/Menezes/Nato) 1min 48.761secs 33 laps
2nd #5 Ginetta (King/Hanley/Orudzhev) +0.422secs 11 laps
3rd #6 Ginetta (Robertson/Simpson/Smith) +0.473secs 25 laps
4th #7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +1.324secs 41 laps 5th #42 Cool Racing (Lapierre/Borga/Coigny) +1.577secs 39 laps 6th #8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +1.783secs 43 laps
Free practice 2 results:
1st #6 Ginetta (Robertson/Simpson/Smith) 1min 48.127secs 31 laps
2nd #8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +0.061secs 43 laps
3rd #1 Rebellion (Senna/Menezes/Nato) +0.161secs 33 laps 4th #7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +0.852secs 41 laps 5th #5 Ginetta (King/Hanley/Orudzhev) +1.551secs 20 laps 6th #42 Cool Racing (Lapierre/Borga/Coigny) +1.627secs 40 laps