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Conway: “Too Early to Read Anything” into Toyota’s Test Pace

Conway: Don’t count Toyota the clear favorites just yet…

Photo: Toyota Gazoo Racing/James Moy

Mike Conway believes it is too early to make any firm assessments about Toyota Gazoo Racing’s chances in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans despite the team’s dominant test day display.

Toyota locked out the top three positions on the test time sheets with its raft of TS050 Hybrids as the rival Porsche team finished over three seconds off the pace.

Defending Le Mans winner Neel Jani told Sportscar365 on Sunday that he thought the front row was out of reach for Porsche, such was Toyota’s advantage over a single lap.

“If you just went off of last week’s effort, yeah, you could say that,” Conway told Sportscar365.

“I don’t know. I don’t think they went for a full qualifying effort anyway, so let’s see how the week unfolds.”

While Conway was impressed by the progress that Toyota has made with its car since its heartbreaking defeat at Le Mans last year, he stressed that he did not want to make any set assumptions about the pecking order among the LMP1 hybrids.

“The pace seems a lot better, a lot more improved than when we were here last year. It’s a big step, all down to the hard work of the team,” he said.

“A lot of effort has gone into many areas, so it looks good. It’s too early to read into anything. We’ll just focus on what we’re doing and then see where we are come qualifying.

“Even then, remember last year we weren’t really sure where we were going to be until the race was unfolding, and that’s kind of normally what happens.

“As the stint starts, even at places like Silverstone where we were massively ahead in qualifying, Porsche was right there in the race.

“I think it’s going to be a tight one.”

With memories of its 2016 loss fresh in the mind, Conway believes that the chance to bounce back gives Toyota’s push for the win at the Circuit de la Sarthe an added edge.

“It would be an amazing story, put right what happened last year,” Conway said.

“We’ve been strong all year. The first few races have been really good for us, and it would be amazing.

“The team’s been trying to win this one for a long time and Toyota as well so we’d love to be able to deliver it to the team, whatever car it may be, No. 7, No. 8, or No. 9.

“I hope that one of us does it.”

The pain of that defeat was felt no more acutely than by this year’s No. 8 crew, including Anthony Davidson, who is comforted by the fact that losing in such fashion is unlikely to happen again.

“As a car crew we did the work we had to. It was cruelly robbed and taken away from us at the last minute, literally the last minute, so hopefully we won’t suffer that pain again this year,” Davidson told Sportscar365.

“But it’s certainly character-building, and you realize that you probably won’t go through that kind of pain again. In a way it makes you stronger.

“I feel like us coming into this race this year, you just treat it like any other race. What will be will be, that’s my mental approach anyway. I think last year really taught me that.”

Luke Smith is a British motorsport journalist who has served as NBC Sports’ lead Formula 1 writer since 2013, as well as working on its online sports car coverage.

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