Mike Conway feels the Toyota GR010 Hybrid is significantly better around Sebring International Raceway than it was last year, after its suite of updates ahead of the new FIA World Endurance Championship season.
Toyota made changes to its hybrid-powered LMH car after winning a second consecutive Hypercar world title last year, with the aim of making it more consistent to drive.
The adjustments included a weight-saving program, aerodynamic additions including dive planes and, vents on the front and rear to improve brake cooling.
The Japanese manufacturer had a strong build-up to today’s 1000 Miles of Sebring, after leading last weekend’s Prologue test and topping all Free Practice sessions.
It then qualified second and third on the grid as Ferrari AF Corse claimed a debut pole with the new Ferrari 499P.
Conway, who shares the No. 7 Toyota with Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez, told Sportscar365 that the drivers were “fighting the car” at Sebring last year but now it’s easier to drive.
In addition to in-house updates, Toyota has better Balance of Performance values than it did at Sebring last year when it ran 8 kg heavier and with around 15 horsepower less.
“When we tested in Europe, we felt like it was definitely a better car,” said the British driver.
“When we come here, it feels a lot better than what we had here last year. This particular style of circuit is definitely helping us.
“We were definitely fighting the car here a lot last year. It was very hard to get it in a good window.
“With the rule changes that we all know happened, it left us in crappy window of where we wanted to be with the car. We were a bit compromised.
“The updates have been to overcome most of that. We’d always like a bit more time and throw more things at it, but I think we’ve done a good job with the time we’ve had.
“It’s been a bit of everything that’s made it a better package.”
Conway specified that the Toyota has become more stable in cornering, particularly at high speeds.
“Sometimes with these cars you have different things happening with the balance from entry, middle to exit,” he said.
“With this package it seems to be that we’re smoother all the way through the corner. It’s good here, especially with Turn 1 which is bumpy. Everything is in a bit of a better window.
“The team have done a great job, providing us with a car that’s just nice to drive.”
Conway’s co-driver Lopez described the improvement of the GR010 Hybrid as “natural progress” after two seasons and a dozen prior races.
“You get better and improve the car,” he said. “We did the first car, then the regulations changed a bit, so we were out of the window in some places.
“As Pascal [Vasselon, technical director] says, the driveability of the car is much better. That allows us to push more.
“It is a good step. Everyone [in Hypercar] improved, but the lap time is a big improvement on last year.
“It’s still a hard car to drive. Hypercars are heavy. We have this thing with cold tires. It’s still hard. But definitely less [difficult] than what I remember from last year.”