After a trying 24 hours in 2015 spent languishing behind the Porsches and Audis, Toyota returns to Le Mans in optimistic mood, with a first win for the Japanese marque in five attempts a distinct possibility.
Following last year’s disappointing run to 5th and 8th positions, the Japanese manufacturer has developed the new TS050 Hybrid, which took a podium finish on debut at Silverstone and led at Spa before retiring with engine problems.
However, it is believed that these failures were the direct result of loads placed on the engine at Eau Rouge and therefore should not arise again at La Sarthe.
Anthony Davidson believes that the TS050 Hybrid’s early promise will inspire the 2014 FIA World Endurance champions to reach new heights at Le Mans, but warned that reliability could play a bigger role than ever before.
“We’re definitely looking forward to it more than we were last year,” said Davidson, who will share with Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima.
“We always knew it was going to be a long 24 hours of just sitting and waiting to see if the competition faltered, but with them running three cars apiece it was obvious that it was going to take some incredible luck to even get us onto the podium and obviously that didn’t happen.
“Going into this year, certainly you’re in a much more positive frame of mind. As a driver it’s only natural I feel I get more out of myself when I know I’ve got a chance.
“But it’s going to be a race of attrition for everybody, nobody is entirely confident that they can get through the entire 24 hours unscathed, and that includes us.”
This will be Mike Conway’s second appearance as part of the Toyota operation at Le Mans and his third attempt at the race.
The Englishman learned plenty from the team’s hardships last year, but is expecting to be fighting more than just their sister car this time around.
“It looks like we’re in the fight; it’s night and day difference compared to last year,” Conway told Sportscar365. “The main thing we wanted when we came back was at least to be able to fight and they’ve done a good job to build a completely new package with quite a limited time-frame.
“I learned a lot from last year and it will help a lot coming into this year, but it’s going to be a different race from only racing the sister car last year to hopefully racing everybody else out there. It will make things much tenser!”
Davidson, though, is eager not to get carried away by thoughts of victory.
Le Mans is not an event that can be taken lightly, a fact Davidson is keenly aware of following his serious accident in 2012.
“You can’t put too much pressure on yourself to win, it’s such a fickle race, as we all know,” he said.
“You can plan for 364 days of how you approach this race and something is going to happen to you that you never could have predicted. If there’s ever a race where you needed a bit of good luck, it’s this one.”