TOYOTA DEBUTS NEW AERO — In a bid for its first victory of the year, Toyota has rolled out with an updated aero package for its solo TS030 Hybrid this weekend in Sao Paulo. The Japanese manufacturer’s high downforce package features modifications to the front wheel arches, engine cover and wing, aimed to better suit the upcoming stretch of races on the FIA World Endurance Championship calendar.
“It’s bodywork that’s suited to the requirements in terms of aero efficiency of this track,” Toyota Racing technical director Pascal Vasselon explained. “Basically, some additional drag but a lot more downforce. This is what we need. Even though there’s a very long straight, you have a lot of low speed corners. Here, you need downforce, not only for pure performance but for consistency.”
According to Vasselon, development of the high downforce kit began before Le Mans and went into production shortly after, prior to a recent two-day test at EuroSpeedway Lausitzring.
So far, the package has seemed to have payed dividends on the high-speed and technical 15-turn, 2.676-mile Interlagos circuit, with the No. 8 entry of Stephane Sarrazin, Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi posting the quickest time on Friday.
“It’s a good step,” Sarrazin said. “The team did a great job. The car feels better. It has a better balance. Compared to Le Mans, it’s a big difference. The car is glued on track. It’s very efficient and a really good car.”
“It’s tough. Audi increased their game since last year. They improved a lot again. We have to be really perfect if we expect to win.”
JEANNETTE’S COMEBACK — Five years after making his most recent LMP2 start, Gunnar Jeannette returns to the wheel of a Greaves Motorsport prototype in this weekend’s Six Hours of Sao Paulo. The 2011 ALMS PC co-champion has joined Christian Zugel and late addition Bjorn Wirdheim in the British squad’s Zytek Z11SN Nissan, filling in for team regular Tom Kimber-Smith, who is on ALMS duty in Baltimore.
Jeannette is only making his second pro race start since breaking his leg in a skydiving accident in June, when his main parachute failed. Despite the scare, the 31-year-old has been on a quick road to recovery, finishing third in GTE in his comeback race with Ram Racing in last month’s European Le Mans Series round at the Red Bull Ring.
“Red Bull Ring was no issue,” Jeannette said. “I wasn’t supposed to walk on it, and I really didn’t. So I crutched around and went back to right-foot braking. So when I was in the car, the left leg really didn’t do anything, other than use the clutch to get in and out of the pits.
“For a prototype, I would prefer to left-foot brake but I’m not going to this weekend. With the Zytek, the peddle box is a little bit tight, but it’s not terrible by any means. I’m not foreseeing any issues with it right now.”
As for his future in the blue skies, Jeannette, an avid skydiver and BASE jumper, has decided his hobby will take a back seat for now as he pursues continued success in motorsports.
“It’s not that the accident is scaring me from doing it, or after almost 2,000 jumps, I’m thinking that it’s going to be anything that happens again,” he said. “With where it happened and the recovery time from an accident and everything, I was extremely fortunate that I didn’t miss an ELMS race.
“Racing is my profession and it’s what I’ve done all my life and what I love. If that means giving up skydiving and BASE jumping while I’m racing, so be it, that’s the way it is.”
NOTES FROM THE WEC PADDOCK
**All cars this weekend are carrying a decal in memory of Allan Simonsen, who was tragically killed in the opening laps of this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. There are also plans for a moment of silence during grid ceremonies tomorrow.
**Ram Racing’s Mark Schomann was spotted in the paddock, on a recon mission for the British squad, which is evaluating a possible WEC program for 2014. The versatile Ferrari engineer has also been seen in the Krohn Racing pit.
**Newly crowned Le Mans winner Martin Plowman is sporting a French flag on his helmet this weekend, as part of a pre-LM24 bet made with his OAK Racing team manager Pierre-Alain Bouhet should they win the race. By the same token, Frenchman Bouhet had to pose for a photo in Union Jack underwear.24 Hours of Le Mans, Allan Simonsen, ALMS, Audi, FIA World Endurance Championship, Gunnar Jeannette, Interlagos, Le Mans, Sao Paulo, Sports Cars, Toyota, WEC