With only three weeks remaining before the season's curtain-raiser at the Bahrain International Circuit, Panasonic Toyota Racing enters the final stretch of pre-season testing at the Vallelunga circuit in Italy tomorrow with the first run of its race-specification TF106.
LOVE IS IN THE AERO
The new-look TF106 will show off a totally new aerodynamic package, incorporating the latest developments from Toyota Motorsport's 50%-scale Cologne-based windtunnel, where preparatory work for the coming season has been carried out at a relentless pace for the last six months.
"It was always our intention to maximise development time in the windtunnel," explains Technical Director Chassis Mike Gascoyne. "In this way, we have been able to run the mechanical base of the TF106 since the end of November to gather extremely valuable data from the car and the Bridgestone tyres as we concurrently work on honing the most advanced aero package possible for the first three intercontinental races. Reliability has always been a key factor of the first races, but whilst we aim to be 100% reliable, we also want to be 100% competitive. Our approach to the racing season may not enable us to be winter testing champions, but we hope that it will help us to challenge for podiums throughout the season and ultimately Toyota's maiden victory."
WING THEN YOU'RE SINGING
No part has gone untouched in the pursuit of the most competitive Toyota to date with notable modifications and improvements to all areas of aerodynamic performance.
"We have looked at every single component to produce what I believe is our most competitive aero package to date," adds Gascoyne. "We have a new front wing and rear wing, more sculpted side pods, modified diffuser, restyled engine cover and floor. Everything has been studied, improved, tested and improved again. We have two more tests, one this week in Vallelunga and one next week in Barcelona, during which time we will work to harmonise the TF106 package continuing the encouraging work we have conducted with Bridgestone over the winter."
HAPPY VALLE-NTINE'S DAY
As the TF106 will benefit from the timely addition of the most advanced aerodynamic components, the product of thorough diligence in the windtunnel, the car will also reap advantages from a meticulous long-lead approach to RVX-06 engine development. And what better day to start this new chassis-engine relationship than on 14 February!
"We have been testing since the start of the year with an RVX-06 engine in race specification, but we are certainly not resting on our laurels. We are always trying to push back the limits, for example, working on the varying levels of RPM that we can have at our disposal during the race weekend. We are cautiously confident in the reliability of the engine, having confirmed the two race-weekend mileage demands in recent tests. This week's test in Vallelunga will also be important for us to verify the cooling package of the engine with such a substantial aero step, particularly with the two hottest races of the year coming up in Bahrain and Malaysia. Looking further down the line, we already have some evolutions running on the dyno. It is likely that we will follow a similar route to last year, whereby we introduce more regular steps whenever possible, rather than waiting to release fewer, but bigger upgrades in one go."
PITS ARE EXPRESS
Panasonic Toyota Racing's pit crew members have been additionally busy over the winter months, keeping up to speed with all-important pit stop training, which will once again form an integral part of track success with the reintroduction of tyre changes during the race. But as Team Manager Richard Cregan explains, pit stop training has always played an important part in the race equation.
"Even though tyre changes were not allowed during races last season, we continued our usual training programme regardless as we felt the need to be prepared for any eventuality during the race, including emergency tyre changes. With this year's reintroduction of tyre changes during the race, we find ourselves in a strong position because our in-house processes have never stopped. Using the Toyota Production System methods, we are always trying to find improvements in our pit stops, something that we are confident will help us during the season. Tyre changes will add to the spectacle of F1 races once again and it will also make race strategy preparation and execution more interesting. We will certainly see who has done their homework - I know we have done ours to the best of our ability and I am sure we are capable of getting top marks."
MORE, MORE, MORE
A combined total of 3,578 laps have been completed by two TF106s from the first test on 29 November 2005 up to and including the Jerez test on 9 February. That equates to 15,749km, or around 51 Bahrain Grands Prix!
Graphics of the new TF106 aero package can be found at www.toyota-f1-media.com, to which on-track images will be added during the week.
A test round-up from the Vallelunga test will be issued on Thursday.