The American Le Mans Series will host the fifth round of the World Endurance Championship at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas this weekend, and among the highlights will be the U.S. debut of the Toyota TS030 Hybrid race car and the official Toyota Racing team.
It might seem odd that Toyota’s WEC team has never raced on American soil, what with endurance standards like the Petit Le Mans and 12 Hours of Sebring being held here. But Toyota’s team is young, having just returned to endurance racing in 2012.
The race at COTA holds promise to be a fantastic event, and not just because of the twists and turns of the still-new 3.427-mile track. The event will also be one of the last before the impending Grand Am-ALMS merger arrives for the 2014 season.
Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi, and Stéphane Sarrazin will pilot the No. 8 TS030 Hybrid this weekend, with the second No. 7 car of Alex Wurz, Nicloas Lapierre, and Kazuki Nakajima skipping the race to rejoin the two-car team in Japan this October.
Toyota will face stiff competition from Audi, of course, as the four-ringed brand has been dominant, including the R18 quattro’s win at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. Toyota has faced trouble with crashes all year, but hopes to clean up its act for the Austin event.
“It is exciting for TOYOTA Racing to be competing in the United States for the first time, particularly at a track like the Circuit of the Americas,” said Yoshiaki Kinoshita, Toyota Racing team president. “It looks like a great lay-out and I can’t wait to see the TS030 HYBRID running flat-out there. It would be a dream result to win the first WEC race in Austin but it will be a challenge. Our high-downforce package performed well in Brazil but we didn’t have the chance to see exactly how competitive we were in race conditions due to the accident. So this time we want to take the fight to Audi for the full six hours.”