TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s challenge for the 2022 Le Mans 24 Hours got under way with a productive official test day at the Circuit de la Sarthe
With only one chance to evaluate the GR010 HYBRID Hypercar at Le Mans before race week, the test day is critical to preparations as the team aims for a fifth successive victory and it made efficient use of the two four-hour sessions.
Gathering data on car and tyre behaviour was the top priority, meaning single lap times were not a consideration. Nevertheless, last year’s winners Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López set the fastest lap time of the day, 3mins 29.896secs, in their #7 GR010 HYBRID. Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa, in the #8 car, were third quickest, just 0.594secs behind.
The first team members arrived at the track more than a week ago to install garage and working facilities. The complete crew has been on site since Friday, when the cars were prepared for Saturday’s scrutineering in the city centre, which took place in front of an enthusiastic crowd after a two-year absence.
Following several days of hot weather and thunderstorms, the test day began at 9am on Sunday in cooler temperatures under a grey sky. Mike and Ryo had the honour of taking their respective cars on to the Circuit de la Sarthe for the first time in 2022 to begin an intensive programme of preparation.
The 13.626km circuit consists partly of public roads which were only closed on Sunday morning, so track conditions evolved significantly during the day as debris was cleared off the surface. This was gradually replaced by fresh tyre rubber that offered more grip.
The 2022-specification GR010 HYBRID, which features different wheel sizes and aerodynamic adjustments compared to its World Champion predecessor, had never driven at La Sarthe prior to test day. Drivers and team worked relentlessly to compare and optimise aerodynamic, mechanical and control settings.
The #7 crew finished the morning on top thanks to a lap from José. Brendon’s best effort in the #8 GR010 HYBRID put them third, with Ryo experiencing the GR010 HYBRID Hypercar at Le Mans for the first time in real life, although his preparation included testing on the driving simulator.
The #8 driver line-up was completed in the afternoon when Sébastien joined following his Formula E race in Indonesia on Saturday. Sunshine returned to La Sarthe for the second session and the team’s programme continued to progress smoothly as the focus switched to tyre compound comparisons.
The #7 car was again fastest following a lap from José with Ryo’s lap in the #8 achieving third place. By the end of the day, the two GR010 HYBRID Hypercars had completed a combined 2,861km over 210 laps, with both completing more laps than any others in the 62-car field.
On-track action will resume on Wednesday with five hours of free practice over two sessions, plus one hour of qualifying.
Kamui Kobayashi (Driver, car #7):
“It went well and we had a smooth day with no problems. This is only the beginning of the event and the track conditions will evolve over the next week. We spent the day checking various systems and preparing ourselves so we can adjust the set-up as the conditions change. Our car was designed for Le Mans and the balance felt good right away but we’ll see how the picture looks next week. I am looking forward to it.”
Mike Conway (Driver, car #7):
“We’ve been here in Le Mans a few days already so it was nice to be on track and get started. The test day went well and we had a decent balance straight out of the box. We got through our programme, trying a few different set-ups and seeing what we can improve. There have been some changes to our car since last time we drove here and the hybrid deployment speed is different as well, so it was good to get some laps in.”
José María López (Driver, car #7):
“The first day went fine and we ran without problems. We were working through different settings for the aerodynamics, the ride heights and other things, as well as looking at the different tyre compounds. We try to understand all these elements as much as we can and work to improve. The car felt, as always here at Le Mans, very nice to drive but we still have a long week ahead of us and we need to get our heads down and keep working.”
Sébastien Buemi (Driver, car #8):
“I was happy to be able to do quite a few laps today despite the long journey back from Indonesia. Thanks to the team for letting me have plenty of laps during the afternoon session. I enjoyed being back at Le Mans; we didn’t have any issues and we got lucky with the weather. We will look at all the data and see what we can improve for Wednesday.”
Brendon Hartley (Driver, car #8):
“It was great to see the fans at scrutineering after a couple of years without this tradition. The atmosphere is already building one week before the race and it felt nice to be back on track at Le Mans. We spent a lot of time in the last months preparing for this. It’s clear that the GR010 HYBRID was made for this track, where it feels most at home, so it is always a pleasure to drive it here. It looks very competitive at the front and we are in the mix.”
Ryo Hirakawa (Driver, car #8):
“This was my first day in the GR010 HYBRID at Le Mans and I enjoyed it. I was positively surprised how good the car feels on this track; it was designed for Le Mans and it felt amazing. I enjoyed every lap and now I am looking forward to racing with this car. We did a lot of testing and analysing to be prepared for next week. I feel quite comfortable already but I still have areas to improve step-by-step. So far, so good and we will just keep working like this in race week.”
1st #7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing 3mins 31.626secs 50 laps
2nd #708 Glickenhaus Racing (Pla/Dumas/Derani) +0.109secs 26 laps
3rd #8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +0.351secs 53 laps
4th #709 Glickenhaus Racing (Briscoe/Westbrook/Mailleux) +0.996secs 39 laps
5th #36 Alpine Elf Team (Negaro/Lapierre/Vaxiviere) +1.167secs 41 laps
6th #38 JOTA (Gonzalez/Da Costa/Stevens) +2.338secs 49 laps
1st #7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing 3min 29.896secs 54 laps
2nd #708 Glickenhaus Racing (Pla/Dumas/Derani) +0.208secs 51 laps
3rd #8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +0.594secs 53 laps
4th #709 Glickenhaus Racing (Briscoe/Westbrook/Mailleux) +0.926secs 40 laps
5th #22 United Autosports USA (Hanson/Albuquerque/Owen) +2.203secs 48 laps
6th #38 JOTA (Gonzalez/Da Costa/Stevens) +2.486secs 45 laps