Toy­ota GAZOO Rac­ing earns first vic­tory of the 2016 FIA WEC

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Toy­ota GAZOO Rac­ing earned its first vic­tory of the sea­son on home ground in an epic 6 Hours of Fuji, the sev­enth round of the 2016 FIA World En­durance Cham­pi­onship (WEC).

In front of an en­thu­si­as­tic Ja­panese crowd, all three LMP1 man­u­fac­tur­ers showed near iden­ti­cal pace, but the TS050 Toy­ota Hy­brid #6 of Stephane Sar­razin, Mike Con­way and Ka­mui Kobayashi came out on top af­ter an en­thralling bat­tle.

The Toy­ota Hy­brid #6 crossed the line just 1.439sec­onds ahead of the com­peti­tor’s car #8, bring­ing Toy­ota’s 11th WEC win, its fourth in five years at Fuji and its first since Bahrain in Novem­ber 2014. That re­sult also lifts the Toy­ota Hy­brid #6 crew to sec­ond in the driv­ers’ World Cham­pi­onship, 23 points off the lead.

An­thony David­son, Se­bastien Buemi and Kazuki Naka­jima recorded their best re­sult of the sea­son with fourth, within a minute of the win­ning sis­ter car, TS050 Toy­ota Hy­brid #5.

Takayuki Yoshit­sugu, Chief Rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Mid­dle East and North Africa Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Of­fice, Toy­ota Mo­tor Cor­po­ra­tion, com­mented: “This is a fan­tas­tic re­sult for the team, and the fact that this tri­umph has come on our home ground makes it all the more spe­cial. Par­tic­i­pa­tion in mo­tor­sport events holds sig­nif­i­cant long-term busi­ness value for Toy­ota as we al­ways seek to use in­sights and ex­pe­ri­ences gained from the track to build ever-bet­ter cars for our cus­tomers. Our fans have been amaz­ing all through the sea­son and I take this op­por­tu­nity to thank them for their en­cour­age­ment, and we look for­ward to their con­tin­ued sup­port in the sea­son’s re­main­ing two races in Shang­hai and Manama.”

The tone for a tense and closely-fought race was set at the start. Ka­mui and Kazuki, hav­ing slipped to fourth and sixth re­spec­tively at turn one, fought back, and at the first pit stops the Toy­ota Hy­brid #6 was run­ning sec­ond while the Toy­ota Hy­brid #5 was fourth. Fast work from the pit crew es­tab­lished the pat­tern for the race, with the Toy­ota Hy­brid #6, now with Mike at the wheel, in a very close fight for the lead with the com­peti­tor’s car #8, while An­thony in the Toy­ota Hy­brid #5 was push­ing for the podium.

As the race passed the half-dis­tance point, there was no letup as all three LMP1 man­u­fac­tur­ers ran flat-out for vic­tory in a tense con­test, which got even closer when the com­peti­tor’s car #1 joined the bat­tle. As the four-hour mark ap­proached, less than two sec­onds cov­ered the top three while the Toy­ota Hy­brid #5 was less than 30 sec­onds from the lead in fourth, with Kazuki push­ing for the podium po­si­tions.

Stephane en­joyed an ex­cit­ing stint with wheel-to-wheel bat­tles against com­peti­tor cars’#8 and #1, all whilst cop­ing with heavy traf­fic. When Ka­mui took over the Toy­ota Hy­brid #6 with just over 90 min­utes re­main­ing, he kept up the chal­lenge, valiantly de­fend­ing sec­ond place be­fore tar­get­ing the leader.

The fi­nal stop for the Toy­ota Hy­brid #6 saw Ka­mui take only fuel, sav­ing vi­tal time and earn­ing track po­si­tion but re­quir­ing him to main­tain the pace on older tires. Ka­mui rose to the chal­lenge dur­ing the tense fi­nal laps, with fine driv­ing through the traf­fic. He crossed the line to win his first WEC race, while An­thony took the flag shortly af­ter in the Toy­ota Hy­brid #5. Toy­ota GAZOO Rac­ing will re­turn to ac­tion next month with the penul­ti­mate race of the 2016 sea­son, the 6 Hours of Shang­hai on 6 Novem­ber.

Toy­ota’s Kazuki Naka­jima, driver at Fuji Race.

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