Toyota Gazoo Racing will begin the defence of their FIA World Endurance Championship title this weekend when the 2019-2020 series opens with the 4 Hours of Silverstone
Home favourite Mike Conway leads the line-up in the No7 car, alongside Kamui Kobayashi and José María López, while in the No8 car, World Champions Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima are joined by Brendon Hartley, who will make his Toyota Gazoo Racing debut at Silverstone.
Conway said: “Silverstone is a special place for me, not only as my home race but because the track itself is really cool, with fast and flowing corners. When you put together a fast lap there, it is very rewarding because it is so quick. 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 that this is the year.”
The team enjoyed a near-perfect season in 2018-2019, which included two Le Mans 24 Hours victories. They return to the track with the Toyota TS050 Hybrid race car, competing in eight races on four continents, including the climax of the season at Le Mans on 14 June 2020.
To start their fourth and final year of competition, the TS050 Hybrids will compete at Silverstone in high-downforce trim, debuting a new aerodynamic configuration that the team revealed at the championship prologue test in Barcelona in July. The team are particularly determined to succeed at Silverstone, as it is the only race they failed to win last season, having been excluded from the results because of a technical infringement caused by accident damage.
This year the Silverstone race is the first in the WEC’s modern era to be held over four hours, during which the leading cars can expect to complete close to 500 miles. At stake is the Royal Automobile Club International Tourist Trophy, a prize first presented in 1905 and won by some of the legendary figures in world motorsport, including Tazio Nuvolari, Stirling Moss and Graham Hill.
The challenge to the Toyotas will come from LMP1-class non-hybrid rivals from Rebellion and Ginetta, which will benefit from revised regulations that give them weight, fuel and engine performance advantages.
The action will start on Friday with two 90-minute practice sessions, followed by qualifying at lunchtime on Saturday. The race will get under way at midday on Sunday.
The weekend marks the first visit to a WEC race for Katsuyoshi Hikichi, in his new role as President of Toyota Motorsport GmbH (TMG), the Cologne-based technical centre where the TS050 Hybrid is designed and assembled. He takes over the position from Hisatake Murata, who remains Team President of Toyota Gazoo Racing WEC and Field General Manager of the Gazoo Racing Company.