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Toyota prepares for the FIA WEC at Portimão with a road trip

As TOYOTA GAZOO Racing makes its first appearance in Europe at the 6 Hours of Portimo for the 2023 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), the team hopes to continue its strong start to the season.

Toyota prepares for the FIA WEC at Portimão with a road trip

Perfect team operations, outstanding driver consistency, and astute tyre management led to a one-two finish at the season-opening 1000 Miles of Sebring, beating off a Hypercar field that included such storied brands as Cadillac, Ferrari, Peugeot, and Porsche.

After taking first place at Sebring in the #7 GR010 HYBRID driven by Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, and José Mara López, they currently lead the driver rankings. Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley, and Ryo Hirakawa, the reigning World Champions and the victors of last year's Le Mans, started their defence of their championship with a close second place finish.

Portimo kicks off a crucial and demanding European-based preparation period leading up to the Le Mans 24 Hours, which includes the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps at the end of this month, after the unique obstacles over the bumps at Sebring four weeks ago.

In the second round of the 2021 World Endurance Championship, Sébastien and Brendon led home a TOYOTA GAZOO Racing one-two and won the race at Portimo. That sportscar event was Toyota's 100th in the FIA World Championship.

Portimao presents a difficult task for both the drivers and the team's logistics. On Thursday, April 6th, five trucks departed the team's base in Cologne, Germany, to begin the epic road adventure to bring the GR010 HYBRIDs and working equipment to Portugal.

The Autodromo Internacional do Algarve is located in the city of Portimo in southern Portugal, and the team's five trucks will have driven through five countries and 2,500 kilometres by the time they arrive on Sunday. It would take a Hypercar almost 14.5 hours to cover that distance, which is equal to 538 circuits around the 4.653-kilometer circuit at a normal racing speed (including pit breaks).

On Friday, drivers and engineers will spend two 90-minute practise sessions testing different compounds of Michelin tyres and evaluating alternative aerodynamic and mechanical settings on the GR010 HYBRIDs in anticipation of Sunday's second race of the season.

Saturday's last practise will take place late in the morning, and the starting grid will be determined in a 15-minute qualifying session at 4:20 p.m. On Sunday at 1pm CEST (2pm EST), the second round of the 2023 WEC season, the 6 Hours of Portimao, will get underway.

Kamui Kobayashi (Team Principal and driver, car #7):

Kamui Kobayashi (Team Principal and driver, car #7):

“Thanks to the big team effort, strongly supported by our colleagues in Japan and our partners, we made the perfect start to the season in Sebring. We could not achieve more than a one-two victory, and I think we deserved it. But Portimão is a new race and we have to start again with another team effort to prepare the most competitive cars possible. Portimão is a very different track compared to Sebring and we can expect our Hypercar competitors to be even closer. Many of our rivals have tested there recently, but we will be driving there for the first time since April last year. This means we need to work hard during the practice sessions to find the right set-ups and tyre strategies. At this stage of the season, every race is part of our Le Mans preparation, so next week is another important step. We are looking forward to the fight with our Hypercar competitors; I am sure it will be exciting again for all the fans.”

Brendon Hartley (Driver, car #8):

Brendon Hartley (Driver, car #8):

“Sebring was our first taste of the battle with the new Hypercar competitors, and it was exciting for everyone. We met the challenge, and we have to keep raising our game to stay ahead of the competition this season. The team did an amazing job in pre-season and at Sebring, now we go again at Portimão where I’m sure it will be even closer. It’s great for the series and our fans, and as a team we’re relishing the challenge, so we are all looking forward to this race.”

Sébastien Buemi (Driver, car #8):

Sébastien Buemi (Driver, car #8):

“I have nice memories of Portimão from our victory two years ago so it’s good to be going back there again. We will have a big challenge from the other Hypercar manufacturers, I’m sure. Sebring is a special track so I’m not sure we have a clear picture yet of where everyone is in terms of performance; Portimão will give us a much clearer indication. Our car looks strong, and we saw in Sebring that the team is at the top of their game, so I’m confident. It will not be easy but let’s try to stay in front.”

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