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“It felt like I have never left!” Lopez reflects on Test Day as Toyota Gazoo Racing searches for the perfect set-up for its GR010 – Hybrid

(Photo: Roger Jenkins)

Toyota Gazoo Racing completed its preparations for race week with the #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010-Hybrid topping the time sheets in the first of two three-hour sessions after Kamui Kobayashi lapped the 13.626 kms of the Circuit de la Sarthe in 3:28.467.

The team, based in Cologne, Germany, saw its plans for the week changed after the announcement that #7 driver Mike Conway had sustained injuries in a cycling accident and would be unable to drive. The team called on the services of ex-Toyota pilot Jóse María López to join Kamui Kobayashi and Nyck de Vries in the car, giving the Argentinian driver 24 hours to prepare himself for the two sessions.

The #7 trio put in a total of 25 laps in the first session with Lopez just under a second behind Kobayashi with a 3:29.361 and De Vries lapping in 3:31.581.

(Photo: Roger Jenkins)

The #8 crew of Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa put in a combined 31 laps in the first session with the quickest time coming from Buemi with a 3:29.823.

The second session saw lap times drop appreciably with Kobayashi again the quickest driver of the #7 car with a 3:28.467 while Brendon Hartley improved on his best time of the morning session by around 2.5 seconds, the New Zealand driver lapping in 3:27.615.

All six race drivers completed their mandatory ten laps of which five need to be timed to be eligible to compete in the French endurance classic which begins at 4.00pm on Saturday June the 15th.

The team focused on mechanical set-up comparisons in the morning session which was disrupted by red flags and a lengthy safety car period.

The afternoon session saw a continuation of set-up analysis mixed with testing of the two compounds of Michelin tyres – medium and soft – which are available for the event.

(Photo: Roger Jenkins)

Team Principal Kamui Kobayashi enjoyed the sessions but knows more work needs to be done to unlock the ultimate potential of the team’s pair of GR010-Hybrids.

“I enjoyed being back here at Le Mans and driving this track again,” he said. “It’s always good to be back. We were just working on finding the right balance for the car. It was not easy to get a good set-up, especially as the track conditions were changing throughout the day.

“We will summarise what we need to do to find more speed in our car and work hard to get better for next week.”

José María López was pleased at how familiar the car felt and described his return to Toyota Gazoo Racing as is he had never left.

“The first day of testing is done and I was really happy to be back in the car,” said Lopez. “I have to say it felt like I have never left; I felt at home because I know everyone and I know the car. We have a lot of data to analyse and now the most important days are coming up when we look at all the data from the test.

“It was a positive start and I’m really happy with the work done by the team.”

The 24 Hours of Le Mans grid is next out on track on Wednesday June the 12th for the first practice session followed by one hour of qualifying.

The 2024 24 Hours of Le Mans get underway at 400pm on Saturday June the 15th.