Following a challenging 2015 season that brought only a single podium finish, Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Mike Conway is hoping a new car will bring new hopes to fight for the FIA World Endurance Championship.
The 32-year-old Englishman, who begins his second full season with the Japanese manufacturer, is optimistic that the new Toyota TS050 Hybrid will be able take the fight to Audi and defending World Champions Porsche this season.
Sportscar365 caught up with Conway to get his thoughts on the new car and the season ahead.
How’s the testing been with the Toyota TS050 Hybrid so far?
“We’ve obviously been doing a lot of testing but in terms of where we stack up… The car is good. It’s an evolution of last year.
“Everything’s been upgraded with different aero, different chassis… It’s all new but it’s just been a step up on everything, especially with the 8MJ class now and the twin-turbo engine.
“It’s all been working well. We’ve definitely improved, with quite a big lap time gain. It’s just we’re not sure how much everyone else has gained. We’ll see.
“But just by going from the 6 to 8MJ with the battery, we can see where we were losing out last year and now we can actually feel it. We know that’s where it all was.”
Do you feel a big difference in switch to the 2.4-liter twin-turbo V6 engine?
“It’s definitely an improvement, especially with the efficiency through a lap. We struggled a lot last year with quite a lot of fuel lifts, with the V8, which was quite a thirsty engine.
“The V6 is definitely a lot more efficient. The torque levels have definitely improved. The characteristics of driving is quite good.
“We’ve just been chipping away, test by test, just getting it more and more dialed into what we need.”
How disappointing was it last year, knowing you couldn’t fight for race wins?
“It was a tough year last year because we really couldn’t fight at all. We weren’t quite close enough to fight and some races where we thought we may have a chance, it never happened.
“We managed to finish the year off with a podium, which was good. But still, we knew we needed to make some big changes to get back to winning races this year.
“Some big changes were made and hopefully it’s enough to fight and get back to winning races.”
How important is Silverstone to start the year off in a positive direction?
“It’s an interesting one because we’ve been testing with the high downforce package and we know what we’ve got with that car.
“It’s the first tell [on the competition]. Sometimes you get a good idea with testing but really, until you get to the first qualifying session, bang, that’s when you see what everyone can do, with no fuel, new tires…
“Silverstone will be the next big test.”
This is your second full season with Toyota. Have you been pleased with your transition to sports car racing full-time?
“I really like it in sports cars, especially as this is the top-tier of sports car racing.
“The LMP1s are amazing technology and this constant development is something every driver wants to be involved with, to be able to develop a car.
“It’s great. I love it here at Toyota. The whole team is a great environment; all of the drivers and teams keep pushing hard.”