Toyota Gazoo Racing set for Sebring showdown

BY Sean Loo

Toyota Gazoo Racing is now defending its FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) titles, starting with an exhilirating 1000 Miles of Sebring.

And Toyota will be bringing the heat as well, rocking up with its 2023-specification GR010 Hybrid, an evolution of the hypercar that won 10 of the 12 races it participated in since its 2021 debut.

Pre-season testing showed good promise as well, with tweaks to optimise reliability and drivability as well as reducing overall weight.

Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López will team up for their fifth consecutive season, at the wheel of the #7 GR010 Hybrid. In the #8 sister car, Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa will aim to repeat their world title and Le Mans wins from 2022.

2023 marks the 11th season in WEC for Toyota Gazoo Racing, and the team has had unprecedented success thus far, clinching earned five consecutive Le Mans 24 Hours victories and four straight World Championship doubles.

But, a 1000-mile race over 8 hours at Sebring presents a unique challenge to both drivers and cars. The historic venue, home to endurance racing in the United States since it opened in 1950, is famed for its bumpy and unforgiving track surface, while the unrelenting Florida weather of hot, humid and unpredictable will make the cars suffer even more.

And that's not taking into account the rest of the competition. On track, new hypercar rivals Cadillac, Ferrari, Porsche and Vanwall are eagerly lining up, along with established titans Glickenhaus and Peugeot.

A total of 11 hypercars will battle for overall victory in the first of seven races this year, the biggest top-category grid for a WEC season-opener since the series was relaunched in 2012.

For those who cannot wait to catch the action first hand, the class of 2023 will share the track together this weekend, during the traditional Prologue test, which features 12-and-a-half hours of running on the 6.019km airfield circuit across Saturday and Sunday. Practice for the 1000 Miles of Sebring begins on Wednesday with two one-hour practice sessions, followed by a final 60-minute practice on Thursday.

The starting grid will be determined during a 15-minute qualifying on Thursday evening as the sun sets in central Florida. The race will officially commence at midday local time on Friday.

Folks, if you have 8 hours to spare, time to dig into your couches and tune in.