Published on August 11th, 2020 | by Subhash Nair0
Toyota Gazoo Racing Returns to Defend WEC Title This Weekend
FIA World Endurance Championship title holders Toyota Gazoo Racing will be fighting to retain their status this weekend. After half a year of being on an enforced, COVID-19-related break, racing will resume on the 15th of August 2020.
The first race since February will be the Total 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, which will be held without spectators.
The Toyota Gazoo Racing team already has a 33 point lead over their main rivals, but the significance of this Saturday’s race is still very high. It’s the warm-up race for this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, and this is the first time they’ll be running the low-downforce-specification TS050 HYBRID vehicle this season.
Here’s the press release with more details.
The team last competed back in February in Austin, with the following race at Sebring in March cancelled due to the worldwide circumstances. The scheduled races at Spa in April and Le Mans in June were postponed, with a new race in Bahrain added to replace Sebring.
Three months later than planned, the 6 Hours of Spa will take place on Saturday 15 August without spectators. TOYOTA GAZOO Racing makes the short journey from its Cologne base determined to fight for a fourth consecutive victory at the Belgian track to extend its World Championship lead, which stands at 33 points over Rebellion Racing.
The fight for the drivers’ title is closer; the #7 TS050 HYBRID crew of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López leads by only five points from Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley in the #8 TS050 HYBRID.
Despite the enforced calendar changes, Spa remains the warm-up race for the Le Mans 24 Hours, adding additional importance to next week’s event, when the low-downforce-specification TS050 HYBRID will be used for the first time this season.
Engineers and drivers sharpened their competitive instincts during the racing-free period by participating in the Virtual Le Mans 24 Hours, on the same June weekend when TOYOTA GAZOO Racing should have been aiming for a third consecutive Le Mans win.
The team approached its e-motorsport debut as a relationship-building exercise, strengthening the bond between drivers and engineers following weeks without race events or face-to-face contact. That experience, plus a three-day test at Paul Ricard in July, helps the team feel ready for its return to the circuit.
Track action begins next Thursday evening with a single 90-minute practice session, which Sébastien will miss in order to compete in a Formula E race in Berlin, leaving Kazuki and Brendon to take the first preparation steps. Second and third practice will take place the following day prior to qualifying in the evening, when the 31-car grid will be decided. The race starts at 1.30pm on Saturday 15 August.