Category: FIA GT, International Motorsport

Toyota Racing gets ready for 2019/20 WEC season-opener at Silverstone

In its final season, Toyota Racing is prepping to go out with a bang as the 2019/20 WEC (World Endurance Championship) season-opener hits Silverstone this weekend. The 4-hour race will see the sole factory Toyota squad battles the many private contenders for the WEC crown, which culminates with the Le Mans 24-hour.

This season’s WEC features eight races on four continents and concludes at La Sarthe on 14 June 2020. For the start of its fourth and final season, the Toyota TS050 Hybrids will compete in high-downforce specification, giving a race debut to the new aerodynamic configuration which was also used during the Prologue test in Barcelona last month.

Home favorite Mike Conway leads the #7 TS050 Hybrid line-up alongside Kamui Kobayashi and José María López while WEC Champions Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima are joined by Brendon Hartley, who will make his Toyota Racing debut at Silverstone. “It’s a really fun track, although traffic can be difficult there and you have to get your timing right. There’s always a big crowd and I have family and friends supporting me, so I would love to finally win my home race; I’ve been close a few times but I hope this is the year,” Conway said.

“We are focused on the new season and the first race at Silverstone, we want to make a winning start. The competition from the other LMP1 cars looks to be quite challenging this year following the regulation changes so we are expecting a fight and we know we need to prepare ourselves thoroughly to get the right result on Sunday,” Buemi added.

Silverstone was the only race which Toyota Racing did not win last season; following a one-two victory both cars were excluded after failing post-race technical checks due to floor damage after hitting kerbs. That disappointment means the team is even more determined to earn another victory at the British track, where they won six-hour races in 2014 and 2017.

This year’s Silverstone race is the first of the WEC’s modern era to be held over four hours, during which the leading cars can expect to complete close to 800km on the 5.901km circuit. They will be fighting to earn the Royal Automobile Club International Tourist Trophy, first awarded in 1905 and won by motorsport legends such as Tazio Nuvolaro, Stirling Moss and Graham Hill.

The TS050 Hybrids will face a challenge from LMP1 non-hybrid rivals Rebellion and Ginetta, boosted by revised regulations which enhance their performance. At Silverstone, the TS050 Hybrids will be 94kg heavier than the non-turbo Rebellion and 85kg heavier than the turbo-charged Ginetta. Meanwhile, the Rebellion is permitted 61% more fuel per stint than the TS050 Hybrid, with the Ginetta’s turbo engine allowed 50% more. Regardless how the organizers intend to make the competition fair, the Toyota cars will be hard to beat based on raw power and factory-backed advantage.

British fans get their first chance to see the 2019-2020 WEC grid in action on Friday, with two 90-minute practice sessions while qualifying takes place on Saturday noon prior to a midday day start to Sunday’s race.

This weekend marks the first visit to a WEC race in his new role for Katsuyoshi Hikichi, new President of Toyota Motorsport. .

Toyota Racing prepares for final season in WEC and Le Mans

Le Mans Champions Toyota Racing is preparing for a last hurrah in the upcoming WEC (World Endurance Championship) season and Le Mans. The squad of course captured the WEC titles and Le Mans without major challenges from factory-backed squads. In the new season, they wish to make it three-in-a-row at the Le Mans. Toyota Racing made their debut in the WEC in 2016.

The new season 2019/20 will feature eight races, spanning the UK, USA, South America, Asia and Middle-east. The shakedown or prologue is scheduled for 1 September at the Silverstone track. Toyota Racing is an obvious favorite without an obvious rival for a third consecutive title. The 2018 TS050 Hybrid became the first Toyota to win a Le Mans race. They are, however, not the first Japanese manufacturer to win that honor; that honor belongs to Mazda in 1991. Still, Toyota holds the honor of winning the Le Mans twice, and they’re now gunning for a three-peat.

For the new season, the same LMP1 car Toyota uses gets some modifications with revised aerodynamics and further fine-tuning of mechanical parts for reliability. The pilots confirmed for the new season are returnees, with the exception of former Le Mans winner Brendon Hartley, who’d a stint at Porsche in its heydays. Car no.7 once again has Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López at the helm. Sister car no.8 is driven by Hartley, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima. Meanwhile, Thomas Laurent is the test and reserve driver and will share driving duties with Signatech Alpine in an LMP2 racer.

Lopez remarked. “Mike, Kamui and I have one objective and that is to win races and the championship – and to take revenge at Le Mans. The new regulations for 2020-2021 are very exciting and we look forward to racing against other manufacturers again, which will be fun. But the downforce, the speed, the power of the TS050 Hybrid is amazing and I am sure that one day I will say that I was lucky to have the opportunity to race such a car.”

Hartley, the newbie, commented, “I fell in love with Le Mans when I first raced there in 2012 so, after missing two years, I can’t wait to return. Since Le Mans I had my first real test in the TS050 Hybrid and I am already feeling at home in the car and up to speed. My goals are always personal rather than results based.”

It all starts with the prologue, 4 Hours of Silverstone, then the first of eight races on four continents featuring a combined 66 hours of racing on historic tracks such as Sebring, Spa-Francorchamps and Fuji Speedway, ending at Le Mans on 13-14 June 2020.

2019-2020 WEC Calendar

1 September 4 Hours of Silverstone
6 October 6 Hours of Fuji
10 November 4 Hours of Shanghai
14 December 8 Hours of Bahrain
1 February 6 Hours of Sao Paulo
20 March 1000 Miles of Sebring
2 May 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps
13-14 June Le Mans 24 Hours

Goodyear returns to International Motorsports scene

After years of being out of the motorsports scene, Goodyear has announced its intentions to partake as sponsors for European and International sportscar racing series, namely the World Endurance Championship (WEC) and Le Mans 24-hour. Goodyear will supply racing tyres for the WEC and Le Mans’ teams in the 2019/20 season. In domestic motorsports, Goodyear Malaysia was the pioneer in grassroots motorsports and the Formula Drift Championship during its golden age 2009 – 2012.

Goodyear is no stranger in the world of motosports, they’re active in F1 with 368 GP wins and as many as 14 wins in Le Mans. To this day, Goodyear’s record of 368 GP wins still stand. Goodyear was also active in the American IMSA series.

To keep its motorsports legacy intact, Goodyear has picked the WEC to return to motorports as it provides a strong platform for demonstrating tyre technologies on a wide range of different prototype and GT cars.

Goodyear’s Motorsport Director Ben Crawley commented, “The nature of the races (varying from 4 hours to 24 hours) mean tyre choice and strategy are critical and it provides a motivating challenge for our technology team in our European innovation centres ahead of exploring other racing opportunities for the brand. It is an ideal platform for us to engage with consumers around the heritage, passion, innovation and technology that make up Goodyear’s story in racing. We will focus on sportscar racing at first, before applying learnings to other categories of racing, which could be within the endurance arena or in other racing series.”

Goodyear has been developing a new range of tyres for Le Mans Prototypes for over a year at their innovation centres in Hanau (Germany) and Colmar-Berg (Luxembourg). The tyres will be developed and manufactured alongside Goodyear’s latest range of Eagle F1 SuperSport tyres for performance and track-day cars, ensuring that the technology and knowledge transfer between the road and race ranges is optimized to benefit the performance of both. The tyres will debut at the start of the 2019/2020 WEC season at Silverstone in August.

This comeback marks the return of Goodyear to global sportscar racing at one of racing’s most iconic venues. With over 250,000 attendees, Le Mans is one of the largest single attendance sporting events in the world.

WEC has been around for 7 seasons and features long-distance races on four continents with the Le Mans season finale, a race which Goodyear-equipped cars have won on 14 occasions.

Toyota Racing captures 2nd straight win at 2019 Le Mans

The 87th Le Mans 24-Hour was an unforgettable experience for Toyota Racing with a second Le Mans title in consecutive years, a repeat from last season. Not only did Toyota win the 2019 Le Mans, but they got a one-two finish after Sunday’s endurance race around the clock at the Circuit de la Sarthe. With the Le Mans win, Toyota won the WEC (World Endurance Championship) 2018-19 overall title as well..

Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Fernando Alonso in the no.8 TS050 Hybrid defended their Le Mans crown and secured the drivers’ title. They inherited the win which could have gone team mates’ (Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López) way in sister car no.7. The TS050 Hybrid no.7 was on the verge of victory, but a tyre puncture prompted a last minute swap and virtually handed victory to car no.8.

On the 367th lap, with a lead of over two minutes, data on no.7 car indicated a puncture and Lopez had to pit to replace the tyre. A sensor issue resulted in the wrong tyre being identified, meaning Lopez left the pits still with a deflating tyre. That necessitated a slow lap back to the pits when four tyres were changed, handing an unassailable lead to Nakajima in car no.8.

Car no.7 drivers had controlled much of the contest, having set the fastest-ever Le Mans race lap of 3:17.297. Other motorsport records were rewritten too; Nakajima became the first circuit-racing champion from Japan and Alonso is the second driver to win four-wheel world titles in two different disciplines (F1 and Le Mans).

2019 Le Mans 24-Hour: Unlucky end for TS050 car no.7

Car no.7 had started the race from pole following Kobayashi’s fastest qualifying lap, with car no.8 starting just behind. That set the scene for an exciting and close battle for overall victory between the two 1,000PS TS050 Hybrids, with momentum swinging one way and then the other. Without the likes of Porsche and Audi, there weren’t any real challenges for the factory Toyota squad. After 12 hours the two Toyotas were separated by only 8.6secs. In the night, car no.7 seized a decisive advantage as the sister car faced an aerodynamic imbalance. That was caused by bodywork damage due to the rigours of a tough, flat-out contest although the cars were always on the same lap.

As the final hours approached, the gap remained relatively stable around two minutes and the focus switched to bringing the cars home safely. All appeared to be going to plan until car no.7 experienced its dramas and Nakajima took the lead with less than an hour to go. From there, it was smooth sail for the Japanese and more importantly a 1-2 finish. The closest challenger was six laps behind the two Toyotas.

2019 Le Mans 24-hour LMP1 results

1st    #8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing                                385 laps
2th    #7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing                               +16.972secs

3rd    #11 SMP (Petrov/Aleshin/Vandoorne)                 +6 laps
4th    #1 Rebellion (Jani/Lotterer/Senna)                     +9 laps
5th    #3 Rebellion (Laurent/Berthon/Menezes)            +15 laps

New Aston Martin Vantage GT3 makes racing debut at Le Mans

Aston Martin Racing has revealed its new Vantage GT3 and GT4 customer racing cars to the public at the 86th 24 Hours of Le Mans, with the Vantage GT3 making its Racing debut in the Aston Martin Racing Le Mans Festival this weekend.

The new Vantage GT3 and GT4, the former taking the track for the first time on Thursday (14 June) in the hands of AM Racing driver Ross Gunn, is derived from the new Vantage GTE; two of which are entered into the GTE Pro category of this weekend’s showpiece endurance event. All three modern Vantage race cars are based on the critically-acclaimed Vantage road car and powered by the same 4.0-liter turbocharged V8 engine, optimized by AM Racing.

Weighing in dry at 1245kg, the #Vantage GT3 produces a boost-variable 535bhp and 700 Nm of torque. Built from a lightweight aluminium chassis, again based on the road car, it features a steel roll-cage, an Xtrac six-speed sequential gearbox, an Alcon motorsport multi-plate clutch, Öhlins four-way adjustable dampers and Alcon brakes and Bosch Motorsport ABS.

The Vantage GT3 remains in development until homologated on 1 March, 2019 and replaces Aston Martin’s most successful customer car, the V12 #vantagegt3, which is still winning races seven years after it was first introduced to the market, most recently in the Blancpain GT Series #endurance Cup and British GT series.

While not competing this weekend, the new  Aston Martin Vantage GT4 makes race debut at Le Mans will remain on display throughout in the AM Festival Race paddock, offering potential customers and race fans a first glimpse of the marque’s new challenger. Along with the Aston Martin Vantage GT3, the GT4 makes its race debut at Le Mans but remain in development throughout 2018 and is set to be homologated for competition from 1 March, 2019.

Vice President and Chief Special Operations Officer David King said, “The new Aston Martin Vantage GT3 makes debut at Le Mans is a worthy successor to the V12 Vantage GT3 and represents the core future of our customer racing program.”

“With the continued growth of GT racing in general and the GT3 category in particular, this new car and its vantage GT4 brother will lead our expansion in the GT markets around the globe and particular target areas of the US and Asia. We’ve already seen a high level of interest from potential customers and we only expect that to grow as the car evolves closer to its homologation date,” he concluded.

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