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Conway, Hirakawa Impressed With GR010 Upgrades


Toyota Gazoo Racing is full of confidence heading into the opening round of the 2023 season. With an updated GR010 HYBRID, years of experience to draw from and a team of world-class driving talent, the Japanese-flagged team is clearly the team to beat this week in Florida as the new era for the WEC gets underway.

Heading into Qualifying, Toyota’s GR010 HYBRIDs look to be the favourites for Pole and a win on Friday night, having topped three of the four Prologue sessions and all three practice sessions so far. Toyota hasn’t rested on its laurels over the winter and comes into this season with a refreshed GR010 that has impressed Toyota’s drivers so far.

Rather than bring a brand new car to the WEC for 2023, Toyota opted to improve its existing challenger, which has delivered a pair of World Championships and Le Mans wins.

At a glance, the GR010 HYBRID, with its new aero package that features new dive planes, a smaller rear wing end plate and a new set of lights that improve visibility at night, simply looks more aggressive. But the Toyota team’s aim isn’t simply to improve the car’s looks…

The new package has improved brake cooling and allows quick changes to cooling options during a race, achieved through new vents at the front and rear. It’s now lighter too, bringing its weight down to the minimum 1040kg allowed by technical regulations. Principally, these gains adapt the car to the ever-evolving regulations, that have been chopped and changed since Toyota began developing the car back when the new Hypercar formula was first revealed.

We’ve worked on the weak areas, they were not easy to overcome

But what matters is the feeling the upgrades give the drivers. And so far the feedback has been positive.

“We’ve worked on the weak areas, they were not easy to overcome. With the rule changes since our initial design we’ve had to work to get the car into a better window. We’ve done a decent job, and come with a more driveable car,” Mike Conway told DSC.

Behind the wheel #7 driver Conway, speaking to DSC ahead of Qualifying, says he feels the new GR010 is more nimble, making it easier to navigate the LMP2 and GTE traffic.

“You can definitely see the difference in lap time, we are quicker and it’s easier to drive. We were lacking last year to the Alpine. The car is now more responsive, and agile, you can place it easier. The traffic is different too this year, because we have new competition, so we have to look at where they are strong and weak too.”

Ryo Hirakawa, who drives the #8, echoes this, explaining that the improvements made to the car are particularly noticeable on an aggressive track like Sebring. “Compared to last year, there is a big difference,” he said. “It’s just an easier car to manage as a driver. Under braking and over the bumps here it’s far easier to handle, last year it moved around a lot more at Sebring.”

The car is now more responsive, and agile, you can place it easier

The Hypercar class has a new look though, it’s bigger and deeper, with fierce competition expected from Ferrari, Cadillac and Porsche’s new programmes and a steadily improving effort from Peugeot. Ahead of what has the potential to be the most competitive top-class title battle in WEC history, Conway says the team is energised by the new arrivals in Hypercar.

“When we first exited the pit lane on Day 1 of the Prologue I was like ‘wow, 2023 really has started.’ This is what we’ve wanted for so long, and it’s finally here. There are so many unknowns, we will have to take more risks and push harder in traffic, I’m excited for it.”

With the Prologue test and free practice now in the rearview mirror, the teams are ready to get down to business. It’s going to be fascinating to see if the new competition can challenge the champions from the off.

“We have the advantage of two years in Hypercar, we have lots of experience,” says Hirakawa. “But we expect the other manufacturers to catch up very soon, so we know we need to keep improving.”

Toyota has been an almost unstoppable force for years now in the FIA WEC, but true, world-class competition hasn’t been there since Porsche departed after 2017. The opportunity has finally arrived for Toyota to show everyone just how strong its WEC effort really is, after years spent waiting for the cavalry to arrive.

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