TOYOTA GAZOO Racing earned a one-two finish at its home race following an eventful and rain-affected 6 Hours of Fuji, the seventh round of the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).
Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima won their third race of the season in the #8 TS050 HYBRID, TOYOTA’s fifth victory in six events at Fuji Speedway.
Today’s win with the 1,000hp TS050 HYBRID comes at a special time in the history of hybrid technology; it is the 20th anniversary weekend of the launch of the Prius, the world’s first mass-produced hybrid car.
Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López in the #7 car took second place on a day when the TS050 HYBRID showed its strong performance in wet conditions.
Persistent rain throughout the morning meant the race began behind the safety car, with Kamui at the wheel of the #7 and Sébastien in the #8, but after 12 minutes the green flags waved.
Rain intensified and fog descended on Fuji Speedway, causing several interruptions to the race. The first came on 40 minutes with a safety car period, then 40 minutes later the race was red flagged, with the #8 running second and the #7 third.
Immediately after the race resumed, the two TS050 HYBRIDs took over first and second, setting up a fight for victory with Porsche #1 which was regularly interrupted by safety cars due to rain, fog and accidents.
The TS050 HYBRIDs had a speed advantage over their rivals in heavy wet conditions but with differing fuel strategies and any advantage removed during safety cars, the final order of the podium was unpredictable throughout.
But with the 75% mark approaching, after which full World Championship points would be awarded, more heavy fog came and another safety car was called. At that point Kazuki led in the #8 with Mike second in the #7.
Visibility was too poor, particularly in the first sector, so the red flags were waved again, with the race not restarting. That came a few laps before a planned driver change for the #8 and therefore meant Anthony unfortunately did not have the chance to race.
The #7 car overcame adversity to earn the runners-up spot; José had earlier needed an unscheduled pit stop to change steering wheel due to a problem activating the windscreen wiper.
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing now heads to the penultimate round of the season, the 6 Hours of Shanghai on 5 November still with an outside chance of both World Championships. TOYOTA trails Porsche by 58.5 points in the manufacturers’ standings while Sébastien and Kazuki are 39 adrift of the Porsche #2 in the drivers’.
Akio Toyoda, President, TOYOTA Motor Corporation: “From everyone who supplies the parts to build our race car, to our fans who continue to give us their passionate support, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing is fighting in the World Endurance Championship with support from so many in Japan. This battle in Fuji was a very important one for us since this is where our heart and your heart come together as one. I am really pleased that we were able to race carrying the feelings of all these people and win. Thank you all for the support. It was a bit disappointing that drivers weren’t able to drive all out due to the bad weather this time. I want to thank all our drivers who drove the car safely in such bad conditions, trusting TOYOTA’s engineers, mechanics, and machines. This race was also one of the few remaining to fight against our competitor Porsche. As a companion fighting each other with the same mission for the future of automobiles, I hope Porsche, after fighting two more races, heads for the next stage saying: “TOYOTA was a good rival, we want to compete with TOYOTA again someday”. Today’s rain did not allow both of us race exerting all our power however we would like to continue to battle with full power in the remaining two races. To our colleagues in Porsche, let’s do our best to make our fans smile. And to our fans, we are encouraged by your continuous support. Thank you.”
Hisatake Murata, Team President: “It is fantastic to stand in the centre of the podium again for our third win of the season. We have fought very hard to achieve this, and it is even more special here at our home race. Thank you to everyone who came to Fuji Speedway today to support us, despite the bad weather. They really give us extra motivation and I am pleased we could show them an exciting fight with Porsche. Our drivers and car performed very strongly today in the wet conditions. Our target now is to fight hard with Porsche in the final two races and create an exciting end to the season for the fans.”
TS050 HYBRID #7 (Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, José María López)
Race: 2nd, 113 laps, 3 pit stops. Grid: 4th. Fastest lap: 1min 38.747secs
Mike Conway (TS050 HYBRID #7): “Well done to the car #8 guys; they did a fantastic job. It’s great to get a one-two at our home race and a nice reward for the team for all their hard work. On our car the team did really well to maximise what we had and get second. My stint was relatively short and it was tricky in tough conditions. I was fighting with the Porsche and we had good enough pace to stay in front.”
Kamui Kobayashi (TS050 HYBRID #7): “Congratulations to the whole team for this result and particularly to car #8. I am really happy for everyone. We had struggled with our car this week but we found something before the race which worked quite well. We improved the car quite a lot throughout the race. The weather conditions were difficult, also for the fans, so thank to them for supporting us. I hope they enjoyed this result.”
José María López (TS050 HYBRID #7): “The #8 guys did a fantastic job and deserved their win, but actually every driver did well because it was really tough out there. I want to thank the team for their big effort to improve after a difficult Saturday. Fuji is a very impressive event; it has been my first time to race here and now I can see why it’s so special. We will enjoy this result and look forward to the next one.”
TS050 HYBRID #8 (Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson, Kazuki Nakajima)
Race: 1st, 113 laps, 2 pit stops. Grid: 3rd. Fastest lap: 1min 38.070secs
Sébastien Buemi (TS050 HYBRID #8): “This a great result for the team and also for our home fans here at Fuji; thanks to them for such great support, especially considering the weather. Today Kazuki drove a great race so I would like to praise him for that. Even though I did a bit of the work, Kazuki did the most. Congratulations also to the entire team for a great job here.”
Anthony Davidson (TS050 HYBRID #8): “Full credit to Kazuki and Sébastien today. They drove a fantastic race in tough conditions and the team performed well too. Unfortunately I didn’t get in the car; I did have my helmet on twice but circumstances didn’t work out. That’s just the way it goes; it just means I am looking forward even more to the next race.”
Kazuki Nakajima (TS050 HYBRID #8): “Before the race we targeted a one-two finish so I’m really pleased that we achieved it. It’s a great result for the whole team; I am very happy with the job everyone did. I think we deserved the win because we had good pace in the wet conditions. It’s my third win here at Fuji and it’s particularly special to win in front of our home fans who gave us such great support.”