Toyota Gazoo Racing completed a positive and constructive official test day at the Circuit de la Sarthe on Sunday as their preparations for the 2018 Le Mans 24 Hours stepped up a gear. Fernando Alonso, who shares the No8 TS050 Hybrid with Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima, set the fastest lap of the day, at three minutes and 19.066 seconds
That was more than six tenths quicker than the second-placed No3 Rebellion car, while the No7 Toyota of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López ended the test with the third quickest lap. In total, the two Toyotas completed 202 laps on a day of trouble-free running, despite three red flags and multiple safety car periods.
Alonso said: “It was a very good day for us as a team. We obviously prepared this test in the best way possible before the big race in two weeks’ time. The car felt good from the first lap and everyone was happy straight away. Then it was about getting familiar with the circuit; I have been in the simulator and studied onboard laps from previous years but it’s always different on the real track, which feels perfect for these cars.”
The test day was the only chance for teams to experience the 8.5-mile circuit before official race practice and qualifying begin next week. Both Toyotas had many items to test, including aerodynamic and mechanical set-ups, hybrid recovery performance and boost settings. The circuit is made up partly of public roads, so different Michelin tyre specifications were evaluated for performance and degradation on its different track surface.
Test and reserve driver Anthony Davidson completed the mandatory laps to ensure eligibility for race week, in case any of the regular race drivers were ruled out by an unforeseen issue.
Alonso was driving the TS050 Hybrid around the Le Mans course for the first time, following several simulator sessions to prepare for his debut in the 24-hour race. He took the wheel of the No8 car early in the morning session and went on to complete 40 laps over the course of the day.
Most team members will stay at Le Mans for a shakedown test on the shorter Bugatti Circuit on Tuesday to finalise preparations prior to race week, when the action begins on Wednesday 13 June with practice and first qualifying.