Mike Conway’s outlook on the 2014 FIA World Endurance Championship season opener at Silverstone will be as a keenly interested spectator, as opposed to a participant.
This weekend’s first round at Silverstone was due to be the second race of five races in five weeks world tour for Conway. But he won’t race as the Millennium Racing LMP2 team had a funding delay that caused its withdrawal from the weekend.
As it is, the Englishman enters the weekend fresh off his victory in the Verizon IndyCar Series race at Long Beach on Sunday, driving for Ed Carpenter’s team.
When he does race, he’ll co-drive the No. 23 Oreca 03 Nissan with co-drivers Stefan Johansson and Shinji Nakano. It’s a strong lineup, especially considering the 57-year-old Johansson is classified as a Silver-rated driver to fulfill the class requirement.
The new Millennium sponsorship shifts the team name, but it’s largely the same operation that Conway was with in 2013. Then co-driving with Roman Rusinov and John Martin, the trio won four of the final five WEC races in LMP2.
“I drove (this car) last year; it’s nothing new, the tires are a bit different but not much,” Conway told Sportscar365. “It’s largely the same group of guys. A different sponsor and getting different teammates, but it should be great to drive with Stefan Johansson and Shinji Nakano.”
Although Conway has been testing this winter, it hasn’t been in the LMP2 car. He’s mainly been taking up duties in Toyota Racing’s new TS040 Hybrid, in his role of reserve drive.
Conway missed The Prologue at Paul Ricard as it conflicted with the St. Petersburg IndyCar opener. But he’s logged a substantial amount of miles gathering data aboard Toyota’s new LMP1-H car.
“It’s an awesome car, with the 1000 horsepower,” Conway said. “But there’s a different technique with the fuel numbers they’re allowing for this year. It’s hard to believe the amount of power and grip there is.”
Conway, who is likely to be called on for Toyota later in the year if one of its six regular drivers has a pre-existing conflict, is excited about the prospect of how the new fuel regulations will shake out.
“It’s good they’re adjusting all the time to keep a level playing field.” he explained. “The Toyota and Porsche are being allowed more fuel; Audi’s been taken down a small fraction.
“Keeping it level should favor different tracks with the different energy recovery systems when you can recover it. Compared to Audi and their 2 MJs, we can produce 6. Big difference and we’ll see really how it goes.”
Had Millennium raced, they would have been part of a six-car LMP2 field. But the two withdrawals leave the field at just four for this weekend. Conway, as part of the No. 26 G-Drive car, finished seventh in class a year ago.