After a busy 2014 season that saw him split his time between test/reserve driver at Toyota and competing in select IndyCar races, Mike Conway has shifted his focus to a single program, with the common goal of ending the year as a World Champion.
The 31-year-old Briton has taken up a full-season seat with Toyota, replacing Nicolas Lapierre in the Japanese manufacturer’s two-car factory lineup, as it looks to defend its FIA WEC crown following a dominant season.
For Conway, who made three race starts last year, which included a win in Bahrain, the opportunity to step up to a full-time LMP1 drive has been a goal of his since his foray into prototype racing two years ago.
“I suppose it’s hit more of a reality now that I’m actually here and everyone’s in the paddock and I’m in my race suit,” Conway told Sportscar365 during last weekend’s Prologue at Paul Ricard.
“It’s a dream come true and something I’ve wanted [for a while]. It all started here two years ago, my first go in a sports car in LMP2. Here we are a couple of years later.
“It’s really cool, thinking about it like that. I’m excited now to have the chance to have a full season attack and the Le Mans 24 Hours.”
Conway’s rapid accession into the sports car racing world began with the Delta-ADR-run G-Drive outfit in 2013, where he claimed a series-high four class victories.
However, the car’s exclusion from the 24 Hours of Le Mans due to an illegal fuel tank effectively cost Conway and co-drivers John Martin and Roman Rusinov the LMP2 championship.
His efforts, however, were not in vain, as he was noticed by Toyota, which signed him up as a test and reserve driver for 2014, but without a full-time race seat, until now.
“Obviously last year filling in for Kazuki [Nakajima] for some races, I knew that I had to do a good job and maintain things and get the best points possible,” Conway said. “But this year, it really feels like a real start to the season and a real team effort.”
The 2015 season sees a fresh start in some ways for Conway, as without other commitments, has been able to take part in all of the manufacturer’s pre-season testing with its 2015-spec TS040 Hybrid.
He’s also been able to build on the relationships with co-drivers Stephane Sarrazin and Alex Wurz.
“I suppose I did a good bit [of testing] last year but I didn’t get to do all of them because some of the IndyCar commitments,” Conway said.
“This year, I’ve done all of the testing. I feel good and prepared and have plenty of miles under my belt. We’ll really know what everyone’s got by the time we get to Silverstone.”
Conway has praised the latest evolution of the LMP1 contender, which features an upgraded energy storage system although remaining in the 6 MJ hybrid subclass.
While Porsche led the way at the Prologue, there’s little doubt Toyota will again be in the mix, with the clear objective of bringing home the World Championship for a second consecutive year.
“We obviously want to win the championship if we can, as well as the Le Mans 24 Hours,” Conway said. “But we have to take it step by step. It’s a long season.
“But I’m excited to know that I’ll be there from the start and really giving it my all.”