Toyota GAZOO Racing earns first victory of the 2016 FIA WEC
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.