TOYOTA GAZOO Racing 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 of Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima won by more than a lap in a race which marked Porsche’s final LMP1 appearance in WEC.
Victory tonight 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.
An unfortunate contact with a GT car took the #7 TS050 HYBRID 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 the Porsches.
After 30 minutes, Sébastien took the lead from the #1 Porsche and Mike also got past to establish a TOYOTA one-two.
At the first pit stops, the two TS050 HYBRIDs chose different strategies; José took the wheel of the #7 on new tyres while Sébastien stayed in the cockpit of the #8 and only refuelled, retaining his lead.
After an hour darkness fell and the differing tyre strategies began to play out. Just before one-third distance, Kazuki took over the #8 with fresh tyres 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 Porsche GT 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 Porsche #1 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 GT 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 both Porsches 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.
Akio Toyoda, President, TOYOTA Motor Corporation: “I would like to express my deepest gratitude to all those who supported TOYOTA GAZOO Racing in the World Endurance Championship this season. Going to Le Mans to be together with our team in our fight there this June resulted in a personally and truly frustrating experience. And I am aware that our performance in that race brought frustration to our fans, as well. Other gruelling races followed, and, amid it all, we learned of Porsche’s planned withdrawal from the WEC. After last year’s Le Mans, Porsche recognised us as a rival. By battling it out with such rivals as Porsche, I think we were able to heighten our technical prowess, making us faster and stronger. As we went up against Porsche, all our team members, including me, had the same thought in our hearts: “we hate to lose!” But, at the root of that, were feelings we harboured of respect and gratitude toward our rival. What I thought anew following our last three races with Porsche, starting with the Fuji round, was that I wanted to compete in a race that would make Porsche want to take on TOYOTA again. That is one of the reasons we approached Fuji, Shanghai, and, then, Bahrain determined to win, and, this time, we were able to do just that. It was determined at the previous race in Shanghai that Porsche would be this year’s champion. To Porsche, please let me once again offer my congratulations. Although we experienced our share of regret this year, if this final race leaves Porsche feeling it would like another chance to take on TOYOTA, our team would be able to end the season with a bit of pride. To all those at Porsche, by all means, someday, on some road, for our mutual making of ever-better cars, please let us compete with you again. Toward that day, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will continue its making of ever-better cars. To TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s drivers, engineers, mechanics, partners and all those involved in the WEC, let’s keep on doing our best together! In closing, to all the fans who supported TOYOTA GAZOO Racing this season, I once again express my gratitude. The tremendous power you give us is indispensable in all that we do. For the future of automobiles, and for the smiles on our customers’ faces, we will continue to repeatedly take up challenges and try our hardest. We look forward to your continued warm support.”
Hisatake Murata, Team President: “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 Porsche for being strong competitors. We have enjoyed fighting with them over the last four seasons and I hope the fans have enjoyed it too.”
TS050 HYBRID #7 (Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, José María López)
Race: 4th, 196 laps, 8 pit stops. Grid: 2nd. Fastest lap: 1min 43.299secs
Mike Conway (TS050 HYBRID #7): “The race started off well; we fought our way up to second after some good battles with Porsche. We were very close to #8 and with the strategy it was going back and forth between us. Unfortunately we had the incident with the GT car that put us out of contention. The guys did a great job to get the car out again so quickly. It should have been a one-two but another win is good for the team.”
Kamui Kobayashi (TS050 HYBRID #7): “It was a pity to have the contact with the Porsche GT. I thought I had already got past him but we got the drive through so it was probably my fault. I have been down to see the #92 guys to say sorry for finishing their race. We always try to avoid contact so it’s disappointing for that to happen when we were in good shape. I wanted to finish the season in a better way.”
José María López (TS050 HYBRID #7): “I am happy for the team for a fifth win of the year. On our car we fought hard all weekend and we did a good job in the race. I am happy with my stint. I tried to minimise the loss when double stinting the tyres, which wasn’t easy. It’s a pity what happened to Kamui; I know what it feels like but that can happen in endurance racing.”
TS050 HYBRID #8 (Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson, Kazuki Nakajima)
Race: 1st, 199 laps, 6 pit stops. Grid: 4th. Fastest lap: 1min 42.997secs
Sébastien Buemi (TS050 HYBRID #8): “It’s amazing to get five wins in a season; I am really happy. It’s the first time we have achieved that and it shows what a good car the team produced. I’m trying to enjoy the moment but on the other side I am a bit sad because it’s the end of an era with Porsche leaving LMP1. Still, we worked very hard for this so we will enjoy this win.”
Anthony Davidson (TS050 HYBRID #8): “It was a great race. All three drivers, plus the engineers and pit crew, deserve credit for this. Everyone did a perfect job this weekend; we hit the ground running and got the tyre choice just right, so a big thanks to the team. Thanks also to Porsche who have helped us to raise our level to new heights; it was a pleasure to race against them.”
Kazuki Nakajima (TS050 HYBRID #8): “That was a fantastic way to end the season. We had a very strong car and all of our crew did a great job; they deserve this victory. It is nice to finish the year with a strong and consistent race. To win five times in one season is amazing and to finish the year with three wins is great. Thanks to the team for giving us this opportunity; I am really happy.”
6 Hours of Bahrain results:
1st #8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing 199 laps
2nd #2 Porsche (Bernhard/Bamber/Hartley) +1 laps
3rd #1 Porsche (Jani/Lotterer/Tandy) +1 lap
4th #7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +3 laps
5th #31 Rebellion (Canal/Prost/Senna) +13 laps
6th #38 Jackie Chan (Tung/Jarvis/Laurent) +13 laps