Qatar 1812 KM: Prologue Prologue preparations for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing


TOYOTA GAZOO Racing moved a significant step closer to the opening race of the 2024 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season with the official Prologue test at Lusail International Circuit in Qatar.

Prologue preparations for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing

The 2024 Hypercar field, which at 19 cars is the biggest ever, lined up together for the first time at the two-day Prologue event. The GR010 HYBRIDs shared the track with new rivals Alpine, BMW, Isotta Fraschini and Lamborghini, as well as established competitors Cadillac, Ferrari, Peugeot and Porsche.

The World Champions completed 11 hours of testing over two days, focusing on adjusting the set-up of the GR010 HYBRIDs in readiness for Saturday’s Qatar 1812km, which kicks off an eight-race 2024 season. The team completed a combined 571 laps, 3093km after two trouble-free days.

With tyre comparisons and analysis of different settings the primary focus, single lap times were not a priority. Nevertheless, following this first experience of the latest Hypercar Balance of Performance, the team expects a challenging week ahead as it aims to extend its three-race winning streak, which began in Monza last July.

Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Nyck de Vries were 13th overall in their #7 GR010 HYBRID, the car’s quickest lap coming from Nyck in the third test. Reigning World Champions Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa, in the #8 GR010 HYBRID, were 15th fastest following Brendon’s best lap in the fourth session.

The Prologue began two days later than scheduled due to logistics issues which delayed some teams’ cars and equipment. Competitors were permitted to participate in three of the four sessions, and TOYOTA GAZOO Racing opted to skip the first test, when track conditions were at their worst.

Therefore, at 6pm local time on Monday, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing officially began its 2024 season when Mike and Brendon took to the track for their first laps of the Prologue.

The five-hour session provided plenty of time for the drivers and engineers to reacquaint themselves with the 5.419km Lusail International Circuit and build on the experience gained during a two-day test there in November.

Starting shortly after sunset, the action took place under floodlights as the two GR010 HYBRIDs began an extensive programme of mechanical and aerodynamic set-up assessments, and analysis of the Michelin tyre compounds.

That work continued in bright sunshine on Tuesday morning, on a hotter day with less wind compared to the opening session. The team used the first three hours to good effect, not only following up the set-up analysis from Monday’s first test, but also using the chance to practice pit stop procedures as well.

Track temperatures rose above 35°C, the highest so far, late in the morning session and they remained high for the concluding three-hour test in the afternoon, enabling further analysis of tyre performance and durability.

With data from 11 hours of testing available, the team will take on the challenge and make full use of Wednesday to rebuild the GR010 HYBRIDs and optimise car set-ups before free practice begins with two 90-minute sessions on Thursday afternoon.

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

“These two days have been difficult, and we struggled a bit. We tried many things on the car, and we still need to find the right solution to get more performance. It was not a great start, so I am not feeling optimistic for the race week at the moment. But we will work hard to change the story and come back stronger on Thursday.”

Mike Conway (Driver, car #7):

“It’s always exciting to start the season and it’s great to be in Qatar for the first round. We used the Prologue to discover what we need from the car and prepare ourselves for the race. It is not going to be easy but we completed a lot of laps so we have the data, and we will work to improve. The Prologue is finished and now we are into race week, so I’m counting down the days until Saturday.”

Nyck de Vries (Driver, car #7):

“Finally the 2024 season has officially kicked off. I have been waiting a long time for this, really looking forward to being here, so it’s been good to get on track with all our Hypercar competitors. We have had two productive days, completing a lot of laps, and now we need to sit together and work through everything to be in strong shape for Thursday.”

Sébastien Buemi (Driver, car #8):

“It was fun to be back in the car and get the Prologue done, although it has not been an easy two days. We did a lot of laps without issues, so in terms of reliability it has been positive, but we struggled a bit for pace. We have a day to look into all the data and look for improvements before the first practice sessions. We will work hard and see what we can achieve.”

Brendon Hartley (Driver, car #8):

“It has been amazing to see so many Hypercars on track together, some old competitors and some new. It is a spectacular sight, and it also means we are expecting an even bigger challenge. We didn’t have any issues on the car, but we still have work to do in terms of pace to get to the level we expect. Together with our engineers, the drivers will be busy over the next 24 hours.”

Ryo Hirakawa (Driver, car #8):

“This track is new for everyone, and we tried different set-ups to find lap time and balance in preparation for the race. It is always nice to experience a new circuit because you discover something new every corner and every lap. We learnt a lot of things and now there isn’t a lot of time to analyse the data before practice starts. Clearly, we are not the fastest, so we need to work on it and push even harder.”

Prologue Test 1

1st #12 Hertz Team JOTA (Stevens/Ilott/Nato) 1min 41.822secs 58 laps
2nd #38 Hertz Team JOTA (Button/Hanson/Rasmussen) +1.384secs 61 laps
3rd #11 Isotta Fraschini (Serravalle/Bennett/Vernay) +4.106secs 22 laps
4th #59 United Autosports (Cottingham/Costa/Saucy) +14.761secs 57 laps
5th #81 TF Sport (Von Rompuy/Andrade/Eastwood) +14.812secs 53 laps
6th #95 United Autosports (Caygill/Pino/Sato) +14.857secs 39 laps

Prologue Test 2

1st #12 Hertz Team JOTA (Stevens/Ilott/Nato) 1min 40.541secs 123 laps
2nd #50 Ferrari AF Corse (Fuoco/Molina/Nielsen) +0.132secs 113 laps
3rd #38 Hertz Team JOTA (Button/Hanson/Rasmussen) +0.409secs 124 laps
4th #51 Ferrari AF Corse (Pier Guidi/Calado/Giovinazzi) +0.485secs 127 laps
5th #2 Cadillac Racing (Bamber/Lynn/Bourdais) +0.655secs 106 laps
6th #83 AF Corse (Kubica/Shwartzman/Ye) +0.924secs 119 laps
13th #8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +1.911secs 138 laps
16th #7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +2.195secs 127 laps

Prologue Test 3

1st #5 Porsche Penske (Campbell/Christensen/Makowiecki) 1min 41.223secs 70 laps
2nd #94 Peugeot TotalEnergies (Di Resta/Duval/Vandoorne) +0.037secs 65 laps
3rd #6 Porsche Penske (Estre/Lotterer/Vanthoor) +0.197secs 65 laps
4th #93 Peugeot TotalEnergies (Jensen/Müller/Vergne) +0.399secs 82 laps
5th #2 Cadillac Racing (Bamber/Lynn/Bourdais) +0.429secs 78 laps
6th #7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +0.566secs 75 laps
14th #8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +1.473secs 84 laps

Prologue Test 4

1st #5 Porsche Penske (Campbell/Christensen/Makowiecki) 1min 40.404secs 46 laps
2nd #2 Cadillac Racing (Bamber/Lynn/Bourdais) +0.054secs 65 laps
3rd #83 AF Corse (Kubica/Shwartzman/Ye) +0.345secs 75 laps
4th #51 Ferrari AF Corse (Pier Guidi/Calado/Giovinazzi) +0.522secs 84 laps
5th #50 Ferrari AF Corse (Fuoco/Molina/Nielsen) +0.564secs 77 laps
6th #6 Porsche Penske (Estre/Lotterer/Vanthoor) +0.632secs 58 laps
12th #8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +1.693secs 69 laps
13th #7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +1.834secs 78 laps