Toyota bids for its fourth consecutive Le Mans 24 Hours victory this weekend, as the Covid-delayed 2021 edition welcomes back a limited crowd of 50,000 to the Circuit de la Sarthe.
The race heralds a new dawn for Le Mans as the Hypercars take their bow, replacing the more sophisticated and expensive LMP1 class. Britain’s top sports car driver Mike Conway shares the #7 Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 Hybrid with Kamui Kobayashi and José María Lopéz.
The reigning World Endurance Champions will be hoping for a change of luck at Le Mans after a series of near-misses in recent years, against the sister #8 car which has won the previous three 24 Hours in north-west France. Toyota also faces a new rival in the shape of two Glickenhaus-Pipo 007s and a ‘grandfathered’ and restricted LMP1 from Alpine.
Autocar caught up with Conway to find out how he’s feeling as he attempts to break his Le Mans duck once again.
How does it compare driving at Le Mans in the new car compared to the LMP1?
“I wouldn’t say you forget what you had before, but I’m pretty in tune with this new car. It still feels pretty good around here, these cars are built for this place. It lacks the acceleration of the previous car, but we still have pretty good speed through the corners. At high speed the car feels decent as well. It’s just some of the braking markers have pulled back a bit because the car is that bit heavier. We are not able to pass cars as easily either.”
What do you think of the Glickenhaus from what you’ve seen so far?
“We saw at the Monza World Endurance Championship round that they are fast. It’s good, it’s better that they are here and quick. It’s what we want in terms of pushing us and us to push them. I was pretty happy to see them go quick at the end of the test session [Olivier Pla set the fastest time of the test day last Sunday in the final 10 minutes] to keep us on our toes. In sector one and two they are pretty fast. I think it’s going to be close.”