Toyota TS050 Hybrid Electric Vehicles demonstrate their all-weather capabilities to claim an impressive victory in round six of the FIA World Endurance Championship
GAZOO Racing (GR) returned to winning ways in the sixth round of the 2019-2020 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) with a one-two victory in a dramatic Total 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps. The No. 7 TS050 Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) crew of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López overcame a maximum success handicap to extend their World Championship lead to 12 points with just two races remaining.
They were pushed hard by Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley in the No. 8 TS050 HEV, who finished 34.170 seconds behind as the team earned its fourth one-two of the season and stretched its lead in the teams’ World Championship to 42 points.
After days of sunshine and high temperatures, the famously changeable Spa weather struck just over an hour before the start, with a heavy rainstorm causing the race to begin behind the safety car. When racing resumed on lap five, the TS050 HEVs’ exceptional four-wheel-drive capabilities enabled Buemi to take the lead in the No. 8 TS050 HEV, while the No. 7 TS050 HEV raced into second place with Conway at the wheel.
Amid constantly evolving conditions, the No. 8 TS050 HEV crew pitted a lap earlier and kept their Michelin wet tires, whereas the No. 7 TS050 HEV opted to switch to dry tires. When the safety car was called soon after due to an incident involving another car, it soon became clear that conditions favored the dry rubber.
More rain was to come, however, as the second hour came to a close and both cars pitted simultaneously for wets; the No. 7 TS050 HEV with Kobayashi at the wheel led the second-placed No. 8 TS050 HEV, now driven by Hartley, by a minute.
The sun made a rare appearance as the final third approached, allowing López and Nakajima to take their stints on dry tires. The race entered its final hour under the safety car, bringing Nakajima on to the tail of López and setting up a tense duel heading into the final pit stop.
López held the lead under heavy pressure and both pit crews serviced the cars in near-identical times, with the No. 7 TS050 HEV pitting a lap after its sister car. Conway took the wheel of the No. 7 TS050 HEV and saw out the remaining 40 minutes, with Buemi holding strong in second to cross the line 34.17 seconds behind at the flag.
Hisatake Murata, Team President said: “It was a dramatic race and a fantastic result for our team. Credit to the drivers, mechanics and engineers for their great job in difficult conditions. Thank you also to the WEC and the FIA for their hard work to allow us to race again in a safe environment; everyone has made a big effort to put on a show today. Now we all look forward to Le Mans, which is even more special for GAZOO Racing this year. We are all pushing to win this race for the third consecutive time with the TS050 HYBRID.”
José María López, Driver of the No. 7 TS050 HEV, said: “Today, everything went in our favor; the weather gave us a chance to fight and we really took it. All the strategy calls we made on our car were the right ones. It has been a fantastic effort from the whole team, and particularly my team-mates. Now we are ready for Le Mans, our biggest race; even without spectators we will give everything to get the win.”
“We are delighted to claim the two top spots on the podium and further extend our lead as we approach the final two races of the season. I’d like to congratulate the entire team on another outstanding performance in very challenging conditions,” commented Kei Fujita, Chief Representative, Middle East and Central Asia Representative Office, Toyota Motor Corporation. “Competing in these conditions allows us to push our cars to the limit, gain a deeper understanding of their capabilities, and fine-tune our production models to create ‘ever-better’ cars. I’d like to thank all of our fans for their loyal support, and we look forward to giving them more reasons to celebrate at the iconic Circuit de La Sarthe in September!”
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 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 WEC season now gears up for its biggest race of the year, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The GR team will be aiming for a third successive victory in what will be the TS050 HEV’s final appearance in the historic French event, which will take place on 19 and 20 September.