Toyota Gazoo Racing Prepares For Portimão Showdown

BY Sean Loo

Toyota Gazoo Racing aims to maintain its dominant start to the 2023 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season when it competes in Europe for the first time this year, at the 6 Hours of Portimão.

At the season-opening race, which was the 1000 Miles of Sebring, perfect team operations, exceptional driver consistency and smart tyre management delivered a one-two victory over a packed Hypercar field featuring other legendary endurance racing marques, such as Cadillac, Ferrari, Peugeot, and Porsche.

Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López held the advantage in the drivers’ standings after their victory at Sebring in the #7 GR010 Hybrid. Reigning World Champions, and last year’s Le Mans winners, Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa began their title defence with a close second-place finish.

After the unique challenges over the bumps in Sebring a month ago, Portimão marks the start of an important and intense European-based preparation period prior to the Le Mans 24 Hours, which includes the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps at the end of April.

As well as being a challenging circuit for drivers, Portimão is also a challenge for team logistics. An epic road journey to deliver the GR010 Hybrids and working equipment to Portugal began on Thursday, 6th April when five trucks left the team’s base in Cologne, Germany.

The trip the trucks will cover includes five countries and 2,500km on the way to the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve, near the town of Portimão on Portugal’s southern coast. That distance is equivalent to 538 laps of the 4.653km circuit, which would take a Hypercar around 14-and-a-half hours to complete at typical race pace (accounting for pitstops).

Preparation for the second race of the season will begin soon, with a pair of 90-minute practice sessions, during which drivers and engineers will evaluate different aerodynamic and mechanical settings on the GR010 Hybrids, whilst also comparing the different compounds of Michelin tyres.

The 6 Hours of Portimão will then begin at midday local time (1 pm CEST) on Sunday, 16th April.