WEC: Disappointing Texas trip for Mike Conway

20th September 2017

The Texas heat provided hard work for Mike Conway and the #7 TS050 HYBRID as they could only manage a 4th place finish in the sixth round of the 2017 World Endurance Championship.

The 6 Hours of Circuit of the Americas got underway on Thursday with two practice sessions commencing action. The Texan heat would provide a stern test for both man and machine as the weekend’s 6-hour race was moved to a day race, unlike the day-night race that has ran the past years.

Practice

 

During Thursday’s practice sessions, the team worked through an extensive task list, designed to maximise car performance for the particular characteristics of the 5.513km circuit.

The temperature for both sessions never dipped below 30°C, with a peak of 34°C in second practice, therefore, analysis of performance and degradation of various tyre compounds was an important element of Thursday’s work.

Additionally, various aerodynamic and mechanical set-ups were compared while engineers also fine-tuned the hybrid recovery and boost solutions in the search for maximum performance from the 1,000hp powertrain.

Mike and teammates, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López, in the #7 were the lead TOYOTA TS050 HYBRID in third place after two 90-minute practice sessions, 0.959secs behind the pace-setting Porsche #1.

“The balance of the car has been a bit difficult; that has been the main issue. We need to solve that to find some more lap time and then it will look better, I’m sure. Tyre wear is going to be the key for this race; being able to double stint the tyres without losing performance is very important.”

Qualifying

 

The heat failed to relent on Friday, with air temperatures of 33°C as Kamui stepped into the #7 TS050 HYBRID for the start of the 20-minute qualifying, aiming to challenge for TOYOTA’s fourth pole of the season.

After both cars waited in the pits at the beginning to ensure a clear track and favourable conditions, the Porsches had already set the target time and unfortunately the #7 TS050 HYBRID couldn’t challenge.

Kamui earned provisional third place with his lap and in the closing minutes, Mike took over the #7 but his flying lap was badly compromised by traffic in the final sector leaving no time for another attempt.

Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López secured a 4th place starting position in the #7 car, with the team determined to deliver a more competitive performance in Saturday’s six-hour race.

Race

 

When the race began under the midday sun, the #7 TS050 HYBRID took the fight to Porsche and at the end of the first lap Mike took third place from the #2 Porsche to move into the podium places.

Due to air temperatures of 34°C, WEC regulations required the team to change drivers at each stint so José María took the wheel at the first pit stops where the team opted not to change tyres, unlike the Porsches.

José, using a different compound than the sister car, began suffering higher degradation and slipped to fourth despite fighting wheel to wheel over two laps with the #1 Porsche.

At the next round of pit stops, when Kamui took over, new tyres of the same compound were fitted to the #7 car. Kamui’s impressive stint saw him pass Stéphane for third and eliminate the gap to Porsche #2.

On the three-hour mark, after another driver change and refuelling stop, a 10-minute safety car period for barrier repairs brought all four LMP1 cars together at the front, with Mike back in the car and in second.

When the race re-started the #7 TS050 HYBRID, on used tyres, came under attack from the #2 Porsche on new rubber and Mike was defenceless to the Porsche, dropping back to fourth.

With two hours still to go the drivers kept the pressure on Porsche, despite the uncomfortable heat, but ultimately the leaders proved just out of reach with Kamui taking the chequered flag in fourth.

Kamui brought the #7 car home 13.070secs behind the sister car, but was penalised a further 10 seconds for contact with the #24 LMP2 car late in the race.

Despite missing out on the podium, the team now prepares for its home race at Fuji Speedway on 13 October with renewed confidence.

“After the first stint it was looking quite promising but the second stint on the tyres was difficult because there was less grip and we lost time. Also the safety car didn’t help us as it allowed the Porsche #2 to close the gap. So all in all it’s a bit disappointing even though we were much stronger today than we were in qualifying.”

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