SMP Racing’s early showing in practice for the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps was “pretty impressive”, according to Toyota’s Sebastien Buemi, who thinks it would not have been easy to match its lap time.

Buemi is bidding to win a third consecutive Spa World Endurance Championship round this weekend after victories in 2017 and 2018, as well as taking another step towards clinching the drivers’ championship alongside Kazuki Nakajima and Fernando Alonso.

Non-hybrid LMP1 team SMP Racing made an impressive start to the Spa weekend by taking a one-two finish in FP1 on Thursday, led by Sergey Sirotkin, whose lap of 1m56.264s saw him finish 2.4 seconds clear of Buemi in third place.

While Toyota has comfortably held a pace advantage over the non-hybrid privateer teams in LMP1 throughout the WEC super season, Buemi was not so certain it could have matched the effort set by Sirotkin in the #17 BR Engineering BR1 AER.

“We are obviously happy to be back. Good memories from here, but it might be a completely different weekend to what we are used to in Spa,” Buemi said.

“Since 2013, I never experienced a wet race here. It was always sunny, and it’s going to be snowy apparently. We need to get ready and make sure that we finish the race and don’t do mistakes. On top of that, the privateers this morning seemed to be quite quick. So we’ll see.

“We’ve been doing 1m54s in qualifying when everything was pretty optimal. So to see a 1m56s directly in FP1 is pretty impressive.

“I’m not sure it would have been easily possible to match that lap time. We’ll see when it counts.”

Despite Buemi’s caution, both Toyota TS050 Hybrids were seen to be setting quick opening sector times – as much as a second up on their personal bests – before backing off later in the lap throughout FP1, suggesting there is more time to be found.

Sirotkin’s lap will stand as the fastest of the day at Spa after rain hit the circuit for FP2, with more wet weather expected throughout the remainder of the race weekend.

“We had some practice in the wet in previous years, but the visibility is basically the biggest problem,” Buemi said.

“When we follow someone there is lots of spray, but it’s the same for everyone. So we just try to get a good car.

“We are here with the low downforce package to prepare for Le Mans, so of course if it rains, it’s not the optimal downforce package, but hopefully we’ll deal with it.”