GAZOO Racing (GR) delighted an enthusiastic home crowd by recently earning a one-two victory at the 6 Hours of Fuji, the fourth round of the 2018-19 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).
A compelling race saw the No. 7 TS050 Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, and José María López cross the line in front, just 11.440 seconds ahead of team-mates Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima, and Fernando Alonso in the No. 8 TS050 Hybrid Electric Vehicle, for their first win of the season despite starting eighth.
Commenting on the GAZOO Racing team’s victory, Akio Toyoda, President, Toyota Motor Corporation, said: “We have achieved an excellent result of finishing the FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Fuji with a one-two finish. I would like to express our appreciation to all the fans that supported us. The 6 Hours of Fuji this year meant a lot to us; a triumphant home return following the Le Mans 24 Hours, a chance to race again after the disappointment of the previous race and the home race of GAZOO Racing. Thank you very much to all team members for this one-two finish, and congratulations on the long-awaited win for all on car No. 7! And for the fans who always support us, thank you very much. We appreciate your continued support.”
Hisatake Murata, Team President, added: “I'm really happy with this perfect result and I am also pleased we could put on such a great spectacle for the fans here at Fuji Speedway. All week they have given us fantastic support, so I hope they enjoyed watching this exciting race. As our home race, Fuji is a very important event for us, and the target was always to earn another one-two victory in front of our fans and colleagues. We could achieve that because the team worked hard and performed well, even when faced with difficult weather conditions early in the race, so I am proud of their effort.”
The achievement marked Toyota's third one-two victory in the 2018 WEC and its sixth win from seven WEC races at its home circuit, while for Mike and Kamui it is their first victory since a memorable triumph at Fuji in 2016. It was a particularly special race for José María López, who set the fastest lap and earned his first-ever WEC win, having joined the team last season.
The result extends GAZOO Racing's lead in the teams' World Championship to 14 points over its closest rival team. Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima, and Fernando Alonso stretched their advantage in the drivers' standings, with Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, and José María López moving up to second, 13 points behind.
An action-packed start on a wet track saw Kazuki Nakajima in the pole position No. 8 hold the advantage while Kamui put on an overtaking show in the No. 7, exploiting the advantage of four-wheel drive in the difficult conditions to move from eighth on the grid to second by lap two.
The excitement continued throughout a fascinating first hour. Kamui pitted early to switch to heavy wet tires before a safety car period eliminated Kazuki's lead of over one minute. Soon after, the No. 8 switched to hybrid intermediate tires, leaving the rival No. 11 in the lead.
Changing weather added to the drama, with bright sunshine drying the track towards the end of the safety car period. That left Kamui Kobayashi on inappropriate tires for the conditions, so he was the first to pit for slick tires after the 30-minute interruption, and he took advantage by immediately setting very quick lap times.
Kazuki Nakajima and the other LMP1 cars did likewise soon after, and when the running order stabilized early in the second hour, Kamui led in the No. 7 with Kazuki close behind and both TS050 HEVs steadily building a gap to the third-placed competitor No. 1.
The momentum swung between the two Toyota vehicles, depending on who had the newer tires. After a full course yellow with two hours remaining, José María López in the No. 7 led by around 20 seconds from Fernando Alonso in the No. 8 and the pair pushed each other hard.
José set what turned out to be the fastest lap of the race on lap 153, and he kept a stable gap at the front until handing the lead to Kamui Kobayashi with just over 30 minutes remaining. Kamui had the honor of taking the checkered flag in the No. 7, with Kazuki bringing the No. 8 home second for a perfect team result.
Over the years, Toyota has been participating in many different forms of motorsports, including Formula One, the World Endurance Championship (WEC) and the Nürburgring 24 Hours endurance race. Toyota’s participation in these events was overseen by separate entities within the company until April 2015, when Toyota established GAZOO Racing (GR), to consolidate all of its motorsports activities under one in-house brand. Representing Toyota’s belief that ‘the roads build the people, and the people build the cars,’ GR highlights the role of motorsports as a fundamental pillar of Toyota’s commitment to making ‘ever-better’ cars. Harnessing years of experience gained under the extreme conditions of various motorsports events, GR aims to forge new technologies and solutions that bring the freedom, adventure, and joy of driving to everyone.
The team is determined to repeat that result when WEC heads to China for the final race in 2018 and the fifth of eight races this season, the 6 Hours of Shanghai on Sunday, 18 November.
No. 7 TS050 Hybrid Electric Vehicle (Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, and José María López)
No. of Laps: 230
Best Lap: 1'25.603
No. 8 TS050 Hybrid Electric Vehicle (Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima, and Fernando Alonso)
No. of Laps: 230
Best Lap: 1'26.043