TOYOTA GAZOO Racing completed the first practice session for the inaugural 6 Hours of Monza, as it began its quest for a third consecutive Hypercar victory to extend the new GR010 HYBRID’s 100% winning record.
The team leads the World Championship following those wins at Spa-Francorchamps and Portimao and it will again take on Hypercar competitors from Alpine and Glickenhaus in the third round of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) on Sunday.
The #7 crew of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López finished third at Spa then second at Portimao, and are aiming to go one better in Italy. Their push for a first win of the season began well and they set the fastest time of the session with lap of 1min 38.401secs.
Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley, winners of the opening two races in their #8 GR010 HYBRID, were 0.134secs behind in second place. All five Hypercar competitors finished the session within just 0.684secs, promising an exciting battle ahead.
“It was a pretty clean session and it’s very close with all the Hypercar competitors which was nice to see,” commented Hartley. “It was a positive session. Both cars tested different items and we had no major issues.
“We’re still trying to improve the car every time we drive it and we’re making improvements, and did a few tests on different settings and I think we’re getting closer so I feel quite good.”
Although one of the world’s oldest race tracks, Monza is a relatively new venue for WEC, with the only previous visit coming in a two-day Prologue test in 2017. After first practice, it is now unique as the only circuit at which TOYOTA GAZOO Racing has contested competitive sessions in both the WEC and the World Rally Championship.
As WEC moves to the high-speed part of the season, the opening practice session was an important chance to learn how it behaves on a circuit with similar characteristics to Le Mans. A 15-minute red flag, due to an incident for a GT car, threatened to disrupt this crucial programme but the session was extended accordingly.
The team assessed various aerodynamic, mechanical and brake settings, as well as analysing the Michelin tyres, during the session, which finished with light rain. High temperatures are forecast at the weekend, so tyre degradation is expected to be one of the deciding factors in the race outcome.
Engineers and drivers will analyse the data from first practice to optimise set-ups prior to Saturday’s two practice sessions. Qualifying takes place on Saturday evening to determine the grid for the race, which begins at midday CEST on Sunday.
|Free Practice 1 results:|
|1st||#7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing||1min 38.401secs||45 laps|
|2nd||#8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing||+0.134secs||45 laps|
|3rd||#36 Alpine (Negrao/Lapierre/Vaxivierre)||+0.152secs||37 laps|
|4th||#709 Glickenhaus (Dumas/Mailleux/Westbrook)||+0.641secs||18 laps|
|5th||#708 Glickenhaus (Derani/Menezes/Pla)||+0.684secs||37 laps|
|6th||#22 United Autosports (Hanson/Scherer/Albuquerque)||+0.972secs||37 laps|