Toyota GAZOO Racing has won for the fifth time in the nine-race 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season with an impressive victory in the Bapco 6 Hours of Bahrain. The #8 TS050 hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) of Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson, and Kazuki Nakajima won by more than a lap in a race which marked one of the competitor’s final LMP1 appearance in WEC.
Victory for the #8 drivers marked the first time since 1990 that a car crew has won five races during a season of WEC or its predecessor, the World Sportscar Championship.
Takayuki Yoshitsugu, Chief Representative, Middle East and North Africa Representative Office, Toyota Motor Corporation, said: “There is no better reason to rejoice than our region witnessing Toyota GAZOO Racing’s historic achievement with five wins in a season. Our experienced and dedicated teams of drivers, engineers, pit crew and all other support staff have showcased a phenomenal performance to manifest and emphasise Toyota cars’ unmatched endurance and reliability. The remarkable victory of our teams gives us extra motivation to innovate and create ‘ever-better cars’ to surpass expectations of our loyal customers. I cannot thank our fans enough for their amazing support throughout the series, which helped tremendously in achieving this decisive victory.”
Commenting on the team’s achievement, Hisatake Murata, Team President, said: “It is fantastic to finish the season with a victory. I am proud of the team for their work to prepare a competitive car for this race and then to finish the job in the race. At the end of a long season, I want to say thank you to all the competitors, officials, and fans who are part of our WEC family. I also would like to thank our competitors for being strong. We have enjoyed fighting with them over the last four seasons, and I hope the fans have enjoyed it too.”
An unfortunate contact with a competitor car took the #7 TS050 hybrid electric vehicle of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, and José María López out of the victory fight and they finished fourth.
The race began in daylight, and Sébastien led the Toyota challenge after moving into third on the first lap in the #8, with Mike running fourth in the #7 and both cars putting pressure on other competitor cars.
After 30 minutes, Sébastien took the lead from the #1 competitor car, and Mike also got past to establish a Toyota one-two.
At the first pit stops, the two TS050 hybrid electric vehicles chose different strategies; José María took the wheel of the #7 on new tires while Sébastien stayed in the cockpit of the #8 and only refueled, retaining his lead.
After an hour, darkness fell, and the differing tire strategies began to play out. Just before one-third distance, Kazuki took over the #8 with fresh tires and dropped to second, although within a few laps he overtook José, on used rubber, for the lead.
The team was pushing for a one-two finish until the #7 car, with Kamui at the wheel, fell out of contention with three hours completed. Kamui and the #92 rival car made contact at turn one, causing a right rear puncture and bodywork damage to the #7.
During the resulting safety car, the mechanics worked quickly to repair the #7 and return it to the race, having lost six minutes. It dropped to fourth place, two laps off the lead held by Kazuki.
With the four-hour mark approaching, an alternative pit strategy gave the #1 rival car a temporary advantage, but Anthony, now at the wheel of the #8, was in hot pursuit and his pressure paid off when the leader hit a competitor car and pitted for repairs. That left the #8 car with a lead of more than one minute going into the final two hours, and Anthony recorded impressive lap times to extend the advantage, lapping competitor cars in the process.
At the final driver change, the #8 car was comfortably in the lead, so Sébastien took over with a no-risk approach and safely took the chequered flag for Toyota’s 16th win in its 48th WEC race. Mike brought the #7 home, after a stop-go penalty for the earlier collision, in fourth, three laps behind.
TS050 Hybrid Electric Vehicle #8 (Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson, Kazuki Nakajima)
Race: 1st, 199 laps, 6 pit stops
Fastest lap: 1 min 42.997 secs
TS050 Hybrid Electric Vehicle #7 (Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, José María López)
Race: 4th, 196 laps, 8 pit stops
Fastest lap: 1 min 43.299 secs