TOYOTA GAZOO Racing is ready for a tough and exciting battle in next week’s 4 Hours of Shanghai when it faces an unprecedented challenge to its superiority in the third round of the 2019-2020 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).
The reigning World Champions and 2018-2019 Le Mans winners have incurred the maximum success handicap of 2.74secs per lap as a result of a perfect start to the WEC season, which continued with another one-two victory on home soil at Fuji Speedway last month.
With both crews tied on points at the top of the World Championship standings, they will have identical TS050 HYBRIDs and the team is looking forward to a close fight in the third of eight races this season.
The #8 TS050 HYBRID of Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley won at Fuji from Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López in the #7 car. That result mirrored the first race of the season at Silverstone, where the #7 led home a TOYOTA GAZOO Racing one-two.
A repeat of those one-two victories is the target in Shanghai, where the team has won four of its seven WEC races so far, although a tough challenge is expected from the non-hybrid LMP1 competitors, Rebellion Racing and Ginetta.
Unlike every previous WEC race in Shanghai, which ran for six hours and leading cars completed just over 1,000km in normal circumstances, this year will see a four-hour contest begin at midday local time on Sunday. Track activity begins on Friday with three hours of practice on the 5.451km Shanghai International Circuit.
Hisatake Murata, Team President: “We are looking forward to Shanghai and we will fight hard to extend our advantage in the World Championship. Shanghai is another challenge to the efficiency of our TS050 HYBRID and we welcome this. As one of the original WEC circuits from 2012, we can compare how performance and efficiency has developed over the years. For example, our fastest lap time improved by over five seconds from 2012 to 2018, but at the same time we are using 37.5% less fuel per lap. This is a tribute to the hard work and team spirit at TOYOTA GAZOO Racing; it shows our commitment to pushing the limits of technology. I hope we can achieve more milestones in the TS050 HYBRID’s last race in China.”
Mike Conway (TS050 HYBRID #7): “I have good memories of racing in Shanghai from our victory there last year; I hope we can stand on the top step of the podium again this time as well. It should be a great battle with the sister car, but I’m sure the non-hybrid LMP1 cars will be stronger than ever in China. It will not be an easy race but we’re ready for it and looking forward to the challenge.”
Kamui Kobayashi (TS050 HYBRID #7): “I enjoyed winning in Shanghai last year, even though the weather was pretty bad. At this time of year there is always a risk with the weather, so you can’t be sure what to expect. I am happy we can again fight the #8 car because Fuji was frustrating, but we know Shanghai will be another challenge to the efficiency of the TS050 HYBRID. We have achieved so much with this car to extract more performance from less energy, and we will be pushing hard to win in its last race in China.”
José María López (TS050 HYBRID #7): “Shanghai is one of the most challenging circuits on the calendar because the lay-out is different; you don’t see other tracks like that. I really enjoy driving there; when you can drive the TS050 HYBRID, with all that downforce and efficiency, it’s a special feeling on such a circuit. It was a great feeling to win there last year, my second WEC victory, although it was a very tough race with a lot of rain. I hope the weather is better this year and we can again have a good fight.”
Sébastien Buemi (TS050 HYBRID #8): “Shanghai has always been a good race for me; we were strong there in the past during the days of fighting with Audi and Porsche. I always loved the big fight against the other manufacturers on this circuit. The lay-out is pretty special too, especially the first three turns which just get tighter and tighter. This section is tough on the tyres but I enjoy it. Although we will have a big challenge, I am really looking forward to going to Shanghai; I hope we can be strong.”
Kazuki Nakajima (TS050 HYBRID #8): “I’m expecting a tough race in Shanghai but we enjoy a challenge and will give it our best shot. There will be no margin for error at all; we have to be perfect in order to compete considering the performance we expect from the non-hybrid cars. We will all be working very hard to get the car set-up right for the race and get the maximum performance from our energy allocation. I think it will be an exciting race, particularly the battle between our two TS050 HYBRIDs.”
Brendon Hartley (TS050 HYBRID #8): “We are heading to Shanghai on equal points as our team-mates in the #8 car and the non-hybrid LMP1 cars should be closer, so I am expecting an elbows-out, exciting battle. I am sure everyone is really looking forward to the fight. Personally, I am also looking forward to driving the TS050 HYBRID on the Shanghai circuit for the first time; the efficiency and performance of these LMP1 hybrid cars is always impressive.”