Podium start for TOYOTA Racing
TOYOTA Racing started the World Endurance Championship season with a podium finish in a hotly-contested Six Hours of Silverstone today.
The 2014 World Champions faced tougher competition at Silverstone than last year, when it claimed a one-two victory, but brought both cars home in the top four.
The #1 TS040 HYBRID of Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima duelled for the win throughout and eventually finished third, 14.816secs behind the winning Audi after six hours of hard racing.
There was a similarly battling performance from the #2 car of Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin and Mike Conway, who finished fourth to complete a satisfying points haul for the team.
Sébastien and Alex started the race and played their part in an action-packed opening stint as both fought with their Audi counterparts. After a breathless half hour, the #1 held a narrow advantage in third while the #2 was a little further down the road in sixth, having lost out in heavy traffic.
A full course yellow, when all cars must drive at a maximum of 80km/h, followed as a result of an accident and both TS040 HYBRIDs pitted for tyres and fuel. Another yellow followed 30 minutes later and the #2 crew took on extra fuel, putting them on a different strategy to their rivals.
When the green flags waved, Sébastien was struggling for grip on his tyres and dropped to fifth. But misfortune for rivals saw the #17 Porsche and #8 Audi pit for repairs, elevating Sébastien and Alex to third and fourth respectively.
Shortly after one-quarter distance, Anthony took the wheel of the #1, while Mike made it a British driver in each car when he replaced Alex in the #2 a little later.
Anthony began closing the gap to the leading pair and soon joined the battle. At the next round of pit stops he took the lead, electing to save time and remain on the same set of Michelin rubber whilst his rivals changed tyres.
At that point, the TS040 HYBRIDs were running one-two but the three-way fight with Audi and Porsche continued. Anthony conceded the lead to the #7 Audi after some exciting wheel-to-wheel racing while Mike was fourth at half distance having been hampered when a bollard got trapped in the front of his car.
Different tyre strategies were playing out and both TS040 HYBRIDs were firmly in the fight when Kazuki jumped in for Anthony in the #1 and Stéphane did likewise in the #2 as the final two hours beckoned.
By then the pattern of the race was established and the #1 was in a fight for second place with the #18 Porsche, as the #7 Audi established a clear lead, while the #2 TS040 HYBRID was fourth.
Sébastien took over the #1 for the final hour while Alex replaced Stéphane in the #2. The race for victory lasted all the way to the chequered flag as Sébastien pushed hard in his chase of the second-placed Porsche #18, which was in turn catching the leader.
Ultimately, the #1 fell just short and Sébastien took the flag in third, earning Anthony the Richard Lloyd Trophy for the best-performing member of the British Racing Drivers' Club for the second straight year. Alex followed soon after in fourth.
TOYOTA Racing is in action again in three weeks' time, at the Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, on Saturday 2 May.
Toshio Sato, Team President: "I was very impressed to see the exciting battle between the three LMP1 manufacturers. The lead three cars, one from each manufacturer, were running very close all the way to the end. It was really a six-hour sprint race which is great for the fans. Congratulations to Audi who performed very well today. We pushed as hard as we could and it was close. It would have been nice to win the race, of course, but our competition has improved a lot over the winter and now we have a real fight. We are ready for this challenge and we will come back strong in Spa, I am sure."
TS040 HYBRID #1 (Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima)
Race: 3rd, 201 laps, 7 pit stops. Grid: 4th. Fastest lap: 1min 42.209secs
Anthony Davidson: "It is great to win the Richard Lloyd Trophy and particularly nice to have won something today! This is never a circuit which plays to the strengths of our car and we usually struggle a bit here last year's one-two was helped a bit by the weather. I'm looking forward to the next races when I think we will be stronger. Hopefully as we get to circuits where tyre wear is a bigger factor that will play to our strengths."
Sébastien Buemi: "It was a difficult race for us but we pushed really hard from the start. We tried a few things, like double stinting the tyres which shows we were pushing to the maximum. At the end I tried to catch the Porsche but couldn't quite manage with the older tyres. Congratulations to Audi and Porsche who did a great job. Now we are doing our best to be prepared for Spa where we expect to get a better result."
Kazuki Nakajima: "It was a very close and tough race in LMP1. The gaps were very close and we had to push to the maximum throughout the six hours. We thought we had a good chance to pass the Porsche for second place but in the end we just couldn't manage. Still a podium finish is a decent result. We expected it to be a hard race but we did our job well and didn't make any mistakes. It is a solid start."
TS040 HYBRID #2 (Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway)
Race: 4th, 200 laps, 7 pit stops. Grid: 6th. Fastest lap: 1min 42.597secs
Alex Wurz: "As a team we didn't have the pace of Audi today. We knew this track is the worst for us in terms of our car's characteristics but still we don't want to be slower than any of our rivals. We have to stay calm and work hard. I think it's going to be an epic battle until the last race that is the good news. The bad news is that we didn't come out on top today."
Stéphane Sarrazin: "It's not the best result, certainly compared to last year's one-two. But we did a good job and we scored a lot of points. We know it's not our track and Audi has been very quick here during the last years. It's not the perfect start but it's a good one we are second in the championship. We are looking for Spa now with a big motivation and I am sure we will be better there."
Mike Conway: "It was a tough race. I picked up a bollard on the front of the car and it wrecked my first stint. I lost a lot of downforce and it was really unpredictable for the rest of my stint. When it was taken off at the pit stop everything came back to normal and I tried to push to regain some time. At that point fourth was the best we could do so we brought it home and got some good points. I am looking forward to a better weekend at Spa."
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About TOYOTA Racing in the World Endurance Championship:
TOYOTA first competed in the World Endurance Championship (WEC) in 1983, marking the start of a long period of participation in endurance racing. Since 1985, TOYOTA cars have raced in 16 Le Mans 24 Hours races, achieving a best result of second place on four occasions (1992, 1994, 1999 and 2013). TOYOTA entered the revived WEC in 2012, as TOYOTA Racing, with its first hybrid LMP1 car, the TS030 HYBRID, which won five of the 14 races it entered over two seasons. It was succeeded in 2014 by the four-wheel-drive TS040 HYBRID, which won its debut race and subsequently the 2014 drivers' and manufacturers' World Championships. They were designed and built by TOYOTA Motorsport GmbH (TMG), where the race team is based. TMG is the former home of TOYOTA's World Rally and Formula 1 works teams, and was responsible for design and operation of TOYOTA's TS020 Le Mans car in 1998-99. TMG now combines motorsport participation with work as a high-performance engineering services provider to third party companies, as well as the TOYOTA family.
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