Mike Conway believes that it will not be clear sailing for Toyota Gazoo Racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with Alpine likely to be a strong threat along with “very promising” pace from Glickenhaus.
The Englishman and co-drivers Kazuki Nakajima and Jose Maria Lopez head into the double points-paying FIA World Endurance Championship round on the heels of their first victory with the new-for-2021 Toyota GR010 Hybrid in last month’s 6 Hours of Monza.
With reliability issues affecting all three manufacturers to varying degrees so far, Conway believes it will add to the uncertainty for Le Mans and Toyota’s quest for its fourth consecutive win.
“It feels good but I definitely feel like we’re going to have our work cut out for us,” Conway told Sportscar365.
“We still had problems in Monza — in terms of reliability — across the two cars, but we also saw Glickenhaus had issues as well.
“It was another race where Alpine had a pretty flawless race in terms of reliability.
“We think they’re going to be good here. In some parts of the track they’re going to be very quick, like the third sector, I think they’ll be pretty on it.
“Glickenhaus, we saw their pace in the end there when [Romain] Dumas was in the car and looked very promising.
“I think we’ve got the top speed on the Alpine so we should be a bit quicker but then Glickenhaus… I don’t know where we’ll stack up against them. They’re going to be quick.
“We’ll have to wait and see.”
Conway said the Alpine A480 Gibson could pose as a serious threat in the race, even with its expected stint length deficit, and hasn’t ruled out LMP2s factoring into the overall equation should all five of the LMH class entries face setbacks.
“It’s not like we can easily pull laps on them,” Conway said of the grandfathered LMP1 car. “They’re going to be strong.
“It doesn’t take much to flip the race around and have some different things happening.
“The LMP2s are not even loads quicker than them. It’s not like we’re going to lap them [immediately]. With this place so long, it’s going to take a while to put laps on those guys.
“If any of us in the Hypercar class or the Alpine come into some issues you could easily lose a lap to the LMP2s and have to fight a way back through there.
“It’s going to be different. But if we do a good job and everything we need to do then hopefully we can come away with a good result.”
No. 7 Crew Needs to “Keep Fighting” in Championship
With their win in Monza, Conway, Nakajima and Lopez have closed to within six points of teammates Brendon Hartley, Sebastien Buemi and Kamui Kobayashi after a challenging race plagued with a fuel contamination issue for the No. 8 car in Italy.
“With the championship, we’ve reduced the gap a lot now from Monza and just got to keep fighting and get back in front there,” Conway said.
“We’ve won the championship before without winning Le Mans but obviously the aim is to do as well as you can here because it’s so important for points.
“If we have a result here then we’ll obviously leap in front in the championship and that’s what we want to do.
“Bahrain, we’ve still got an eight-hour, which is good points on the table and the six-hour [prior to that].
“Hopefully it’s not clear cut and done depending on where everyone finishes. We hope that maybe if it didn’t go our way this time we’d still be in the fight for the rest of the season.”
Conway said the change in the WEC calendar that will see a second Bahrain race replace the canceled Fuji round could potentially work against them should the No. 7 car have a strong outing in the penultimate round of the season.
“Say you had the advantage in the first weekend you maybe won’t have it by the second weekend in terms of between the two cars anyway,” he said.
“That will make things tighter. I think Bahrain typically we’ve been very good with Car 7, so hopefully we can get some good results there.
“But right now the focus is just on this weekend right now and get through this.”
Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report