The DSC Editor caught up with Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Mike Conway at Spa via a video link, with plenty to discuss from the current performance dealt out to the TS050 at Spa, through to the hopes and expectations for Le Mans next month and his feelings both on the journey through the LMP1 Hybrid era, and beyond into Hypercar.
Mike, have you been doing much sim-testing since we saw you last?
“I haven’t been on a sim at all in the lockdown, apart from Virtual Le Mans, and I did that at home.
We had a fairly major test at Paul Ricard about a month ago with the full team.
“It was great to get back in the car, blow away the cobwebs and get geared up for this weekend. I’ve been looking forward to getting back on it, I think we all have.
“But we know it’s going be hard for our car with the success penalty that we have. That kind of sunk in when I got here because I thought it was going to be four, five tenths maybe, but clearly its more!
Where do you feel those adjustments the most?
“It’s not so much top speed it’s more the acceleration because we get a lot less boost and a lot less power. For instance the boost that you normally have coming down the hill out of the last corner and in all the boost zones they’re just tiny.
“So, we expect to be doing lap times about four seconds slower than when we were here last year.”
In terms of the way that boost is delivered. Does it just deliver less boost or does it deliver the same boost for less time?
“It’s the same power just for less amount of time. You just feel like you hardly get any use out of it. But if you didn’t have that, then the fuel cuts become bigger and then there’s a constant cycle of reduced performance.
“It’s gonna be tough, especially in traffic for our car, getting around the traffic from turn three all the way around to 10, that’s where it’s going to be tough for us to pass and easier for everyone else.
“But you never know, we might end up with another weekend like we did in Bahrain, where we thought we weren’t going to be that good, you just never know.”
So is the game plan just stay out of trouble and do what you can to keep to your strategy?
“We’ll just do the best possible job we can. Weather depending. I think it will help us if it rains because you’re not so reliant on power then.
“Whatever happens it’s still going to be good prep anyway for Le Mans because we’re here with low downforce kit and it’s all about getting that tuned in and ready for Le Mans.
“And we’ve got to score as well as we can here obviously, for the championship, and then Le Mans being bigger points, you know, if you win, there you’ve nearly wrapped up the Championship.
“It’s all going to be about scoring well, the next two weekends that we are racing, and hopefully, you’re looking good coming out of Le Mans.”
What about the atmosphere between the two crews?
We’re always the same, whether we’re going head to head or not, you know, we’re always the same with each other so that that doesn’t change. But yeah, once you’re out there, then it’s different.
“Obviously respecting each other as teammates, that hasn’t changed too much. Really, I think everyone’s just wanting to get back racing and get on with it.”
Have you been involved much as yet with the new car?
“Everything’s changed since all this (COVID-19) has happened. Originally we would have had the car tried by now, this time this year. But things have changed and processes, parts availability and all the rest was changing all the time. So that’s all coming a little later now.”
In conclusion, your feeling this is going to feel like quite a long weekend with the package you’ve been dealt?
“Yeah, for sure, kind of like CoTA really. I felt like we were nowhere there on performance with the restrictions. That was a tough one and this feels like it’s going to be more of the same.”
What are the team telling you about what they expect to be doled out for Le Mans in terms of a perfomnance level?
“I haven’t heard anything. I hope that we’ll just come back to zero because it was close last year if you look at all the averages, Rebellion were second best.
“What would be terrible is if they gave different penalties between the two Toyotas, that would be a farce really, it would just be terrible.
“One horsepower around that place is a lot of time, so I hope they take it back to zero (in terms of performance adjustment) and we have what we have.”
My final question is going to be about Le Mans with this extraordinary car. It’s going to be the last hurrah, of course there’s Bahrain, but this will be their last Le Mans.
You’ve been a big part of that story, I know you’d like to be a slightly bigger part of the story at the end of it?
“Yes, we’ve been so good there the last few years we just haven’t been lucky enough for me to come home with the silverware.
“It’s been great. I’ve really loved every different type of the TS series that I have driven since 2014.
“So it’s been a cool journey from the capacitor to the first battery powered car that we had. And then the different engines along the way, the V8s, the V6 going to the turbo engine. So yeah, it’s been a really cool journey. And the cars have just got better and better as they’ve gone on. So as much as they try to slow us down with the regulations, we’ve just been getting quicker, which has been really cool.
“This car is built for Le Mans and when you get to that track it really does feel alive and working to its full capabilities, you can’t fail to feel privileged to be a part of an effort at that level.
“It’s been quite a ride and it isn’t over, even though the next car won’t be as quick, it is going to be interesting
“We’re all up for the challenge and if that means more cars are going to be involved in the future then that’s going to be good for the sport and we can be a big part of that story too.”