As Toyota Gazoo Racing’s newest full-time driver Mike Conway settles in to his first full season racing, the difference is palatable roughly halfway into the year where he’s had a single focus rather than a split sports car and IndyCar schedule.
Conway has moved from the U.S., where he was based in Arizona, back fully to England this year as he is fully integrated into the team’s program.
The lack of frequent travel, he said, has been a positive.
“It’s been good just to focus on one thing,” Conway told Sportscar365. “I did love the last couple years of jumping in and out of different things, racing here, there and everywhere. But it is nice to stick to one program and focus on that.”
Conway’s racing schedule has been somewhat reduced as a result.
He’d run four races, two apiece between the FIA World Endurance Championship and IndyCar, prior to his Le Mans debut in June 2013.
Last year, he made six IndyCar starts before heading over to Le Mans to serve as Toyota reserve, although he didn’t make his team race debut until Circuit of the Americas in Austin in September.
The sole focus and just two races have provided the one constant thus far in what has been a challenging start to Conway’s second full WEC campaign, and first in LMP1.
Conway and teammates Alex Wurz and Stephane Sarrazin finished fourth at Silverstone and fifth at Spa in the No. 2 Toyota TS040 Hybrid, and were only eighth in the test day, nearly six seconds off the pace-setting No. 17 Porsche 919 Hybrid in mixed conditions.
Nonetheless, heading into Le Mans, Conway is confident the team hasn’t shown its full hand.
“I suppose looking at the time difference we’re down on the Porsches and Audis by a good chunk,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve got everything out on our plate yet. It may come down to reliability. If so, I think we’re quite good on that side.”
Conway noted that although he’s been able to do the full development work this year, there’s not been a noticeable increase in the power delivery.
The Toyota has remained in the 6 MJ hybrid subclass in 2015, although it’s been closer to achieving its full potential in its hybrid system, per technical director Pascal Vasselon.
“For us, our energy levels haven’t changed much,” Conway said. “The power for us is real similar. The cornering speeds are quicker. In slow, medium and high speed, we’ve improved. It’s real fun to drive.
“Here, turns 2 and 3 in the wet were really high grip, and it changes as you go down over the Dunlop bridge to a different surface, and it feels like not much grip at all.
“It depends on what part of the track on how impressive it feels.”
Conway, 31, looks to keep a podium result on this occasion after an illegal fuel tank disqualified his car two years ago.
Together with Sarrazin, a three-time runner-up in 13 prior starts and Wurz, twice a winner with two previous manufacturers (TWR-Porsche in 1996 and Peugeot in 2009), they’ll look for their first win as a trio this weekend.