TOYOTA GAZOO Racing experienced a frustrating afternoon at the 6 Hours of Nürburgring, the fourth round of the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).
Hopes were high following strong performances at Spa-Francorchamps and Le Mans, but those were dashed when the TS050 HYBRIDs lost time early in the race due to a tyre compound which was not ideal for the track temperatures.
The #5 car of Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima finished fifth, one lap behind the winning Porsche #1. Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi suffered a technical problem on their way to sixth in the #6.
That meant a disappointing debut for the ultra-high-downforce aerodynamic package which has been developed for the remaining WEC races, although competitive lap times later in the race offered some encouragement.
A crowd of 58,000 (weekend figure) watched Kazuki and Mike take the start from the third row on tyres intended for higher track temperatures. Compounds for the first stint must be chosen before qualifying, and the race-day track temperatures proved lower than expected.
While Audi and Porsche fought out a close battle at the front, the TOYOTAs were in a relatively lonely race. After 90 minutes the gap between Sébastien in the fifth-placed #5 was over 40 seconds to the race leader, with the #6 in sixth.
Therefore the team decided to swap tyre compounds on both cars. This improved the situation and brought performance back to a more competitive level, although by that time the leading group was out of reach.
TOYOTA’s challenge was further hampered shortly before the halfway point, when Anthony was forced to pit early for a front end change following contact with a slower car. This dropped the #5 behind its sister car.
The middle section of the race was punctuated by several full course yellows but the TS050 HYBRIDs were running well until the #6 needed five minutes of repairs in the garage. From that point, the target was to reach the chequered flag without further incident, which was achieved.
The WEC season now moves outside of Europe for the first time in 2016 for the fifth round of the season, the inaugural 6 Hours of Mexico at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City on 3 September.
Toshio Sato, Team President: “Congratulations to Porsche on a hard-fought victory. The battle at the front was very exciting but unfortunately we were not part of it. It was a tough day for us and we were not competitive enough at the beginning of the race. Things improved later, when we switched tyre compounds, and this showed more of the new package’s potential but it was too late. We will work hard to improve and come back stronger for the overseas races.”
TS050 HYBRID #5 (Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima)
Race: 5th, 193 laps, 6 pit stops. Grid: 6th. Fastest lap: 1min 41.277secs
Anthony Davidson: “We finished where we deserved to today; our speed wasn’t enough over the race. We expected to be better and there were moments when we were, but it was not consistent. It was a tough race traffic-wise and I got caught up; I was in wrong place at the wrong time. We will move on from this and aim for better in Mexico, which is a completely different track.”
Sébastien Buemi: “We didn’t have the right tyres at the start so we changed the compound and that obviously worked better. We knew it was going to be hard here because we lack a bit of downforce compared to the others but unfortunately it was a tougher race than we expected. Now we have to work hard and get back to the right competitive level in Mexico.”
Kazuki Nakajima: “We had a difficult race. Tyre choice was the key and it didn’t work out for us. I think we were anyway a little behind as this track doesn’t suit our car. When I had the right tyres on the car it felt okay and the pace was not bad compared to the others. It was the first proper race finish for our car so at least that’s something to build on. Hopefully we can move forward in the next races.”
TS050 HYBRID #6 (Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi)
Race: 6th, 190 laps, 7 pit stops. Grid: 5th. Fastest lap: 1min 41.472secs
Stéphane Sarrazin: “It was a tough weekend. Unfortunately we had the wrong tyre compound at the beginning and that affected our lap times. After we changed it was better but we were still not as quick as we wanted to be. It wasn’t the performance we expected and this track proved to be difficult for us even with the new aero package. Now we will work hard to be ready for Mexico.”
Mike Conway: “That was a hard race for the whole team. We didn’t have the pace at the beginning and then, when we were looking reasonably competitive, we had an issue with the car. So that was unfortunate for us. The other car had a difficult race as well so it’s not been a good weekend all in all. Hopefully it gets better over the remainder of the season.”
Kamui Kobayashi: “I was hoping for a much better result today. We tried our best but things didn’t go our way. Thanks to the mechanics for their hard work to get the car back out after the issue; they did a great job all day. Nürburgring is not a great track for us so I am hopeful we will improve in Mexico and be back at the front again. I know everyone will be pushing for this.”
6 Hours of Nürburgring results:
1st #1 Porsche (Berhard/Webber/Hartley) 194 laps
2nd #8 Audi (di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis) +53.787secs
3rd #7 Audi (Fässler/Lotterer) +54.483secs
4th #2 Porsche (Dumas/Jani/Lieb) +1min 37.324secs
5th #5 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +1 lap
6th #6 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +4 laps