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). In the #8 TS050 hybrid electric vehicle (HEV), Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson, and Kazuki Nakajima won their third race of the season – Toyota’s fifth victory in six events at Fuji Speedway.
The win with the 1,000-hp TS050 hybrid electric vehicle comes at a special time in the history of HEV technology, as it coincides with the 20th anniversary weekend of the launch of the Prius, the world’s first mass-produced hybrid electric car.
Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, and José María López, in the #7 car, took second place on a day when the TS050 hybrid electric vehicle showed its strong performance in wet conditions.
Takayuki Yoshitsugu, Chief Representative, Middle East and North Africa Representative Office, Toyota Motor Corporation, said: “This is another amazing result for the team, and the fact that this triumph has come on our home ground makes it all the more special. At Toyota, we believe that our active participation in events such as the World Endurance Championship, which put our people and cars to the ultimate test, is one of the key elements contributing to the development of our human resources and creation of ‘ever-better cars.’ Our fans at home have extended tremendous support. We thank them for their encouragement and will spare no efforts to continue surpassing their expectations in the remaining two races in Shanghai and Manama.”
Hisatake Murata, Team President, said: “It is fantastic to stand in the center 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 to support us, despite the bad weather. They give us extra motivation, and I am pleased we could show them an exciting fight. Our drivers and car performed very strongly in the wet conditions. Our target now is to fight hard against competitors in the final two races and create an exciting end to the season for the fans.”
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. The 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 hybrid electric vehicles took over first and second, setting up a fight for victory with competitor car #1, which was regularly interrupted by safety cars due to rain, fog, and accidents.
The TS050s 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 TS050 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.
Kazuki Nakajima commented: “Before the race, we targeted a one-two finish, so I am really pleased that we achieved it. It is 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 is my third win here at Fuji, and it is particularly special to win in front of our home fans who gave us such great support.”
Kamui Kobayashi said: “Congratulations to the entire 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 for us and also for the fans, so thanks to them for supporting us. I hope they enjoyed this result.”
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.