WEC: Turbulent Toyota debut for Conway in a stormy Texas

21st September 2014

LONDON – 21st September 2014 – After its summer break, the fourth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship got underway this weekend at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
This was Conway’s first outing with Toyota Racing and a few test sessions in the car over the summer, along with some simulator work, had left him feeling confident of a strong drive.  Practice 1 Thursday evening certainly got off to a positive start and Conway and his team mates, Alex Wurz and Stéphane Sarrazin, pushed the No. 7 TS040 HYBRID up to fourth place.  The second session was due to take place Thursday evening but torrential rain over the circuit delayed activity for an hour.  With the storm still rumbling on, drivers took to the track to record their mandatory minimum three timed laps in the dark to ensure they complied with regulations for the night race on Saturday.  Under such difficult conditions, Conway and all his Toyota Racing team mates really showed their driving ability with the No. 8 of Anthony Davidson, Nicolas Lapierre and Sébasiten Buemi securing the top spot and the No. 7 only two places behind in third.  Third and final practice was Friday morning and another strong P5 was recorded by the No. 7 team.
Qualifying got underway Friday evening; regulations require two drivers from each car to set a minimum of two flying laps each and the grid is then decided by the combined average of those laps.  Conway and team mate Sarrazin were the nominated two with Sarrazin up first.  Weather conditions were still temperamental and earlier rain had left parts of the circuit damp, but he still managed some solid lap times.  Conway took over but suffered a frustrating wait when the red flag came out with only four minutes remaining on the clock – he managed to secure P5 for the No. 7 but was less than a 10th of a second off second place.  Fellow Toyota team mates in the No. 8 took pole – their third in four races this season.
 “It was an okay session” said Conway; “I made a little mistake on the first lap so had to abort. My second flying lap would have been quicker but then the red flag came which was a shame. I thought I could have done a good lap time there but after that I couldn’t quite get that same speed. I’m a little bit disappointed but it’s a long race. Congratulations to the #8 car for getting an impressive pole position. It’s a good day for the team.”
It was still all to play for as the start of the 6 Hours of the Circuit of the Americas rolled round Saturday evening.  Heavy rain was still causing havoc and it was a tough night of endurance for all the drivers.  Alex Wurz was first behind the wheel for the No. 7 TS040 HYBRID and he moved up the field from 5th to 2nd in the opening laps.  Conway took over just after the first hour and a torrential shower saw him and a number of other competitors aquaplane off track with more surface water than the slicks could cope with.  Officials decided to red flag the race in the interests of safety until conditions improved.  After nearly an hour delay, with the race clock continuously counting down, the race was restarted under the safety car, with Conway back in 7th.  With nightfall having now closed in, Conway continued his battle to make up some places and handed the car over to third and final driver Sarrazin in P6.  Despite a strong drive in the closing laps, Sarrazin was unable to improve on this and had to settle for taking the chequered flag in 6th place whilst team mates in the No. 8 managed to secure the last podium place.
Conway had this to say about his COTA race experience: “That was pretty eventful. With the massive downpour it was like driving into a lake. It caught everyone by surprise. Fortunately we survived and managed to move up to third but then got dropped down to seventh for the restart which made our life hard. Stéph and Alex dug deep to try to get further up but sixth was all we could achieve. I would have liked a better result, but that’s motorsport.”
The next round of the World Endurance Championship will be on the 12th October for the Six Hours of Fuji.

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