TOYOTA GAZOO racing earns first ever podium finish at Nurburgring
TOKYO: TOYOTA GAZOO Racing took its firstever podium in the 6 Hours of Nu¸rburgring in a challenging fourth round of the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). The pole position-winning #7 TS050 Hybrid of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, and Jose Maria Lopez claimed the third position after leading the early stages and setting the fastest lap of the race. The #8 car of Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson, and Kazuki Nakajima finished fourth in the race.
“We are delighted to have secured a podium finish at the 6 Hours of Nurburgring, and I would like to congratulate the drivers, engineers, and support staff for putting on a good race, “said Takayuki Yoshitsugu, Chief Representative, Middle East and North Africa Representative Office, Toyota Motor Corporation. “At Toyota, we hold a shared belief that participating in racing events like the World Endurance Championship, which put our people and cars to the ultimate test, is key to developing our human resources and making ‘ever-better cars’. We deeply appreciate the support we have received from our fans, and we look forward to enjoying their continued backing through the rest of the season.”
On this occasion, Toshio Sato, Team President, said, “Nurburgring has again been a challenging race for us. We showed good onelap speed, and we enjoyed the close fight with the race winner, but the car balance changed during the race, and this means we lost some performance. Today’s race was really a damage limitation exercise in terms of the World Championship. We believe we will be stronger during the rest of the season in North America and Asia, when the target will be to close the gap and fight for the World Championship.”
After light rain in the morning, the fourth of nine championship rounds was held in dry conditions. The race began in the worst possible way for car #8 when a fuel pump problem prevented Sebastien taking the start normally. After a very slow formation lap, he was forced to pit to fit a new fuel pump, losing eight minutes and five laps.
While Kamui led the opening stages in the #7 from pole position, Sebastien began the #8 car’s fight back. The battle for the lead was enthralling, with Kamui keeping the two competitor cars behind during the first hour before handing over to Jose Maria at the first pit stops.
After 80 minutes of fierce racing, the #7 dropped to third place, but Jose Maria fought back and kept the pressure on. At the start of his second stint, with two hours completed, he was within two seconds of the race leader. However, as the race wore on, a change of aerodynamic performance negatively affected both cars. With little realistic prospect of a change of positions, the two TS050 hybrids focused on completing a clean race to secure the valuable World Championship points.
Kamui took the chequered flag for the #7 car in third, earning the team’s fourth podium of the season, 1min 4.768secs behind the winner. After a fighting drive back to fourth, Kazuki finished the race for the #8 car five laps down. That result means Toyota stays in the fight for the manufacturers’ World Championship. The #8 crew lead the challenge in the drivers’ standings and are now 30 points away from the leaders.
The Nurburgring race marked the end of the European leg of the WEC season, with the teams heading to North America next for races in Mexico City (September 3th) and Austin (September 16th), prior to the final three races of 2017, which will take place in Asia.