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. .