Brendon Hartley says Toyota Gazoo Racing is already “close to getting the most” out of its GR010 Hybrid LMH car after two rounds of the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Toyota arrived at Monza for round three this weekend having recently banked an endurance test at Portimao following the previous WEC race where Hartley, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima extended their points lead with a victory.
Hartley said that the post-Portimao test, which included five of the six Toyota WEC drivers plus Ryo Hirakawa, affirmed some approaches to car setup and enabled the team to continue proving its car’s reliability with the 24 Hours of Le Mans on the horizon.
The five-year homologation cycle for LMH means that a new car must be in prime shape from its first race, but lessons can still be learned once the vehicle enters competition.
“It was very clever scheduling a couple of days’ testing directly after a race weekend,” Hartley told Sportscar365.
“Normally after the race you have a few questions and ideas about how you could improve the car, or what you could have done differently.
“Being a relatively new car, there’s always a fear or reliability. We had a pretty good endurance test from that side.
“We worked on a few things: a few balance options on how we could have improved our race weekend. I think, generally speaking, we’re getting close to getting the most out of the car already.”
The Portimao test produced some challenging weather, which Hartley described as useful from a race strategy perspective.
“During the endurance test we pretty much had all conditions,” said the double Le Mans winner.
‘We had some intermediate conditions and wet conditions in the night, which sometimes is not the nicest thing to see before you get in the car.
“But coming out the other side, it was very good preparation for Le Mans to have these mixed conditions. As a driver, being at the car at that point, there’s so much valuable information about how long you can stay on slicks and what the crossover point is.
“Also going back the other direction. I think in the space of two hours I had both scenarios: going to wets and then back to slicks. That gives really important information for the driver, getting those crossovers and giving the right feedback in the race when at some point we’re going to have those conditions.”
Looking ahead to Sunday’s six-hour race at Monza, Hartley indicated that he expects Alpine to replicate its strong single-lap pace from Portugal but wouldn’t say if he thinks the Toyotas will be better suited to Monza’s high-speed characteristics over Portimao.
“I don’t have a strong feeling if this is a better track for us or a worse track than Portimao,” he said.
“Definitely at Portimao, the Alpine was at times quicker than us. There were a few moments in the race where they were much quicker.
“We had an advantage on fuel mileage, and actually extended the fuel mileage to the max longer than the other car, which ultimately gave us the strategy to win the race.
“I think fuel mileage and stint length might come into play. It depends on how the Full Course Yellows and safety cars fall.
“At Portimao we had to put together the perfect race to win and the Alpine was definitely a challenge to beat. I don’t expect anything different here.
“Hopefully Glickenhaus are going to be closer. They’ve got a steep development curve because they’ve tested later than us, so I hope we have a good battle for the podium positions.”
Hirakawa Brought “Fresh Eyes” to GR010
Hartley added that Toyota’s crew benefited from having the “fresh eyes” of 2017 Super GT champion Hirakawa on-site at Portimao for its most recent European test.
Hirakawa became the seventh different driver to pedal the Toyota LMH, after the half-dozen WEC crew members and Nyck Vries who holds a reserve and development role.
“It’s always very good to have some fresh eyes in the car,” said Hartley.
“It’s always really interesting hearing the feedback after the first few rides. There were certain things that he was able to pick up that we discovered very early in the project, but you get used to it and forget about it and start to adapt.
“When you have fresh eyes, they come to light again and kind of remind everyone that there’s still areas where we can potentially improve.
“He gave good feedback, did a good job and didn’t make any mistakes. It was good to have him there.”