TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will finally resume its defence of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) title after an enforced six-month break, when racing returns next weekend with the Total 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.
The team last competed back in February in Austin, with the following race at Sebring in March cancelled due to the worldwide circumstances. The scheduled races at Spa in April and Le Mans in June were postponed, with a new race in Bahrain added to replace Sebring.
Three months later than planned, the 6 Hours of Spa will take place on Saturday 15 August without spectators. TOYOTA GAZOO Racing makes the short journey from its Cologne base determined to fight for a fourth consecutive victory at the Belgian track to extend its World Championship lead, which stands at 33 points over Rebellion Racing.
The fight for the drivers’ title is closer; the #7 TS050 HYBRID crew of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López leads by only five points from Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley in the #8 TS050 HYBRID.
“I am looking forward to racing the TS050 HYBRID for the first time at Spa,” commented Bendon Hartley. “I think Spa is on most racing drivers’ list of favourite tracks and feels like the perfect place to go racing again after the long break.
“The track has a good combination of corners but the elevation and flow makes it special. We had a successful endurance test last month and we all feel ready to go racing again and continue the fight for the championship title.”
Despite the enforced calendar changes, Spa remains the warm-up race for the Le Mans 24 Hours, adding additional importance to next week’s event, when the low-downforce-specification TS050 HYBRID will be used for the first time this season.
Engineers and drivers sharpened their competitive instincts during the racing-free period by participating in the Virtual Le Mans 24 Hours, on the same June weekend when TOYOTA GAZOO Racing should have been aiming for a third consecutive Le Mans win.
The team approached its e-motorsport debut as a relationship-building exercise, strengthening the bond between drivers and engineers following weeks without race events or face-to-face contact. That experience, plus a three-day test at Paul Ricard in July, helps the team feel ready for its return to the circuit.
Track action begins next Thursday evening with a single 90-minute practice session, which Sébastien will miss in order to compete in a Formula E race in Berlin, leaving Kazuki and Brendon to take the first preparation steps. Second and third practice will take place the following day prior to qualifying in the evening, when the 31-car grid will be decided. The race starts at 1.30pm on Saturday 15 August.