Toyota’s pair of TS050 Hybrids topped the timesheets at Sunday’s test on the Circuit de la Sarthe as Alonso’s teammate Sebastien Buemi set the pace with a 3m19.440s in the #8 car, four tenths off its benchmark at last year’s test.
The first non-hybrid privateer, the #1 Rebellion car of Andre Lotterer, was nearly two seconds slower with a 3m21.323s, despite eased fuel restrictions for privateers and an extra 10kg of weight for Toyota compared to last year’s event.
In the 2018 test Rebellion was just six tenths off the leading Toyota, although that gap increased during race week.
Alonso says he is expecting the likes of Rebellion and SMP Racing, whose top car was fourth-fastest on Sunday, to be stronger at the 13.626km track during race week.
“I think everyone will be stronger than what we showed today,” Alonso told Motorsport.com after Sunday’s test.
“Last year we did a [3m19.0s] on the first day, this year we did 3m19.4s with 10 kilos more on the Equivalence of Technology, so I think we are always at the maximum.
“What the other teams are doing is difficult to understand sometimes. it’s a question for them.”
Fernando Alonso, Toyota Gazoo Racing
Photo by: Marc Fleury
Pacesetter Buemi added: “It’s certainly not easy to judge. We depend a lot on traffic, so getting a clear lap is not easy. Instead, we need to look at the sectors to get an idea.
“Car #7 is close as always, even if it doesn’t show on the laptimes. For the rest, I don’t know. It’s a little hard to understand because we’re very similar to last year and the others seem slower.”
Alonso was pleased with the progress Toyota made during the test in the 31 degree C heat of Sunday, although cooler weather is expected for the 87th running of the event.
Asked if Toyota had ticked off all the boxes, Alonso said: “More or less. There are still a couple of answers to be made on race week because I think today the temperatures were very hot.
“We don’t expect this kind of heat in the race, so maybe in terms of tyre selection and fine tuning of the setup it has to be made on the race week with the conditions we will find.”
“We need to check many things in the car. Our car especially with the hybrid system is quite complicated. It’s good to have these kinds of days to tune the systems.
“Everything was okay, no big surprises. We know the car, we know the place. it was a positive day. With the safety car periods I think we lost a little bit of time like everyone does, but all in all it was a positive day and we are very happy with the results.”
Toyota will stay at Le Mans for a Tuesday shakedown on the shorter Bugatti circuit.
On Sunday morning, the Japanese marque’s new recruit Brendon Hartley completed his mandatory five laps to qualify as a reserve driver for the team.
#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050: Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez, Brendon Hartley, Sébastien Buemi, #30 Duqueine Engineering Oreca 07 Gibson: Nicolas Jamin, Pierre Ragues, Romain Dumas
Photo by: Rainier Ehrhardt
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