Conway victorious at Silverstone
Conway victorious at Silverstone

Kent’s Mike Conway enjoyed a sensational opening weekend in the 2019/20 FIA World Endurance Championship.

As he secured a hat-trick of pole, fastest lap, and victory at the 4 Hours of Silverstone to get the new season off to the perfect start.

Following the Prologue test in Barcelona at the end of July, Mike, partnering with team-mates Kamui Kobayashi and José María López, headed to the home of British motor racing in search of his first-ever FIA WEC win at Silverstone.

The weekend got off to a more challenging start for the outfit. With a new track surface at Silverstone and changes to the regulations to contend with, Mike and his team-mates battled through a challenging Friday morning session.

The new rules – also known as revised Equivalence of Technology – saw the two Toyota cars forced to carry at least an extra 99kgs of weight per car. In addition, its rivals also benefit by at least 50% more fuel per lap.

Despite the new changes, the #7 car ended the first practice session in second place, albeit 0.420 seconds from the P1 time which was set by the non-hybrid Rebellion car – highlighting the fresh new challenge the non-hybrid LMP1 cars had to offer.

Determined to go faster, and learning how the now heavier car felt on the resurfaced track, the second practice ended with better fortune and the #7 car was almost a second clear of the next fastest car as they ended the session in first place.

“It’s good to be back on track, especially here at Silverstone in front of the British fans,” Mike said. “They’ve done a nice job with resurfacing the track; it’s nice and smooth with lots of grip. So it feels good to be out there. There’s been some close competition and I expect qualifying will be interesting; I’m looking forward to that and I hope the fans enjoy the show.”

Before Saturday got underway, Mike’s TOYOTA team were forced to work through Friday night in order to replace a broken monocoque which was damaged at the end of the second practice session.

With the team delivering a fantastic job, the car was able to take part in the final practice session on Saturday morning as they prepared for the first qualifying of the season.

Mike was the first in the #7 TS050 and, after his first run, the #7 sat in provisional pole position with a time almost three-tenths quicker than the sister #8 and surpassing the original qualifying track record.

Kamui Kobayashi then took over driving duties and secured pole position for the #7 TOYOTA with a record-breaking 1:35.922-minute lap time. This meant the #7’s average lap time was three-tenths faster than that of the #8, with Mike’s lap time faster than all the drivers who drove in the quicker second runs.

This pole position resulted in Mike and the #7 crew securing their first point of the new season as a reward for achieving pole position.

“I’m very happy with pole position,” Mike said. “I had a decent lap, maybe a little time lost at turn 13 but enough to secure pole position and that’s the important thing. We weren’t sure what Rebellion would come up with; they are very strong in sector two and three so it looks like it could be very close tomorrow. Congratulations to Kamui for his lap and also the team who put a brand new car together overnight. A huge thank you to them; I hope we can give them the result tomorrow.”

After the #7 car had claimed pole position on Saturday, Mike was the first of the trio to drive the car on Sunday. As the clock struck twelve noon, the race got underway with a rolling start and Mike led the pack of cars down the International Pit Straight for the first time.

Mike kept his advantage over the #8 sister car, which had Sébastien Buemi at the helm. However, a full-course yellow in the first stint caused the rival Rebellion car to take the lead. After Toyota’s first pit stops of the race, Mike returned to the track behind the #8 car. Fighting all the way to the next scheduled stop, Mike lapped consistently to make the gap to the sister car as small as possible for the driver change where Kamui was to take Mike’s seat.

90-minutes into the event, a heavy rain shower hit the Northamptonshire-based circuit. With Kamui now at the helm, the #7 car was forced to make an unscheduled stop for wet-weather tyres. Once the track began to dry, Kamui was able to take the #7 car into the lead at the two-hour mark.

When José jumped into the car for his stint, the #8 car was right on his tail. The two cars fought their way through the tricky Silverstone traffic, and the #7 Toyota crossed the line 1.901 seconds in front of its sister car. After which 129 laps of racing, this marked Mike’s first win on home soil, having narrowly missed out on two previous occasions.

In addition to the glory, Mike also set the fastest lap of the four-hour thriller – which was in fact a new race lap record – with a 1:37.289s handing him the accolade of being the fastest ever driver to lap the Silverstone circuit in an FIA WEC race.

“It’s great to win my home race here at Silverstone,” Mike said after the race. “I’ve been trying to win this race for a while now; it took me long enough! Big thanks to my team-mates who did a really solid job in tricky conditions. We were being hounded all the time by our sister car; it was a very tight race so it feels great to come away with the win. Thanks as well to the team for giving us the car to achieve this, especially after having to change the monocoque on Friday. This win is for those guys.”