Toyota Racing begin the defence of their World Endurance Championship titles at Silverstone this weekend (10 to 12 April), aiming to repeat the 1-2 finish they scored in the event last year.
That result set the tone for a dominant season in which the team claimed five wins from eight races to carry off the manufacturers’ title and the drivers’ championship for British star Anthony Davidson and his Swiss team-mate Sébastien Buemi.
Toyota and its LMP1 class rivals Audi and Porsche all have updated cars for 2015, building anticipation for a hotly contested competition. The Six Hours of Silverstone will see Davidson and Buemi joined by new team member Kazuki Nakajima (Japan) in the No1 TS040 Hybrid car.
The champion duo will also be seeking to retain the RAC International Tourist Trophy, one of motorsport’s oldest honours. First presented in 1905, it has previously been won by such sporting legends as Tazio Nuvolari, Stirling Moss and Graham Hill.
Alex Wurz (Austria) and Stéphane Sarrazin (France) are reunited with Briton Mike Conway in the No2 car, the trio having raced together on three occasions during 2014. Conway steps up to a full-time seat with the squad, keen to add to the race win he helped deliver at the Six Hours of Bahrain last year.
Davidson is relishing the chance to put in another strong performance on home ground. He said: “Silverstone is a great track and we always have a great crowd there, so I’m excited to go back and hopefully put on a good show for my home fans. Starting a race for the first time as a World Champion is great; it will be a nice feeling driving the car with the number one on it.”
Conway, too, is looking forward to the special atmosphere of a home race at Silverstone: “I’m looking forward to getting back on that track. I really enjoy the new lay-out and I think our car fits pretty well with the high-speed corners. It’s always cool to drive in front of my home crowd; the British fans are really passionate and they create a great atmosphere.”
The title-winning TS040 Hybrid has undergone an evolutionary change since the final race of 2014, with around 80 per cent of its parts redesigned to improve performance and reliability and optimise weight.
Two aerodynamic specifications have been developed to cope with the differing demands of WEC circuits. Silverstone’s high-speed corners are ideal for the new high-downforce package so this will be raced for the first time.
Improvements to the powertrain mean it delivers more than 1,000hp and can make use of 6MJ of hybrid energy allowance.
The updated car shared the same track as its competitors late last month at the championship’s Prologue official test at the Paul Ricard circuit in France. Both Toyotas successfully completed two days of testing to fine-tune the new aerodynamic packages.
Race weekend action begins with two 90-minute practice sessions on Friday (11:55 and 15:55). A further session on Saturday morning (09:00) will be followed by qualifying at 12:30. The six-hour race will begin at midday on Sunday.