6 Hours of Monza: Preview
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing ready for new challenges
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing is ready for a new and exciting Hypercar challenge when the 2022 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season moves to Italy for the 6 Hours of Monza.
Fresh from its fifth consecutive Le Mans 24 Hours win, and the second with its GR010 HYBRID Hypercar, the team begins the concluding half of the 2022 WEC season at the renowned 5.793km parkland circuit near Milan, known as the ‘Temple of Speed’.
Victory at Le Mans for Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa, in their #8 GR010 HYBRID, rocketed the trio back into the World Championship fight and they travel to Monza just three points behind the leading Alpine drivers.
Reigning World Champions Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López, who share the #7 GR010 HYBRID, finished a close second at Le Mans and are also still in title contention. They need a strong second half of the season, however, to overhaul a 20-point deficit in the championship race.
As well as an exciting title contest, the final races of the 2022 season see a new Hypercar contender enter the fray. Starting in Monza, Peugeot will compete with two cars to make it a fight between four manufacturers for top-class honours.
Toyota and Peugeot have regularly competed against each other in endurance racing, dating back to Toyota’s first Le Mans in 1985 when a TOYOTA TOM’S 85C car finished 12th, five places ahead of the highest-placed WM Peugeot.
In 1992, the two manufacturers fought for the World Sportscar Championship crown. Geoff Lees and Hitoshi Ogawa made history in the first race, at Monza, when they won Toyota’s first World Championship race on the way to runners-up spot in the standings for Toyota Team TOM’S.
That same year, Toyota battled Peugeot at Le Mans, each seeking a maiden victory. The French team finished ahead, with Masanori Sekiya, Pierre-Henri Raphanel and Kenny Acheson earning Toyota’s first-ever podium at Le Sarthe with second place.
The last contest between the two in the top class of endurance racing took place at Le Mans in 1993, a race also won by Peugeot. After a 29-year break, that rivalry will resume this week in Monza for one of the most anticipated WEC races of recent times.
Fans have the first chance to see all Hypercars in action on Friday afternoon when practice begins with a 90-minute session. A busy Saturday sees two further practice sessions before the starting grid is decided during 10 minutes of qualifying in the evening. A 38-car field will take the green flag for the 6 Hours of Monza at midday local time on Sunday.
Kamui Kobayashi (Team Principal and driver, car #7):
“Seeing new manufacturers join the championship is very exciting for the WEC family and the fans; we warmly welcome Peugeot back to endurance racing. The competition within the Hypercar class was already very close and it has been a tough fight all season. With a new manufacturer joining, and more to follow, we expect a significant challenge and we are looking forward to it. It is only a few weeks since Le Mans but we have used that time to get ready for Monza. We were strong there last year and Mike, José and I won the race so that is the target again. But first we need to work hard through the practice sessions to prepare the car, find the right direction on the set-up and put ourselves in a strong position to fight for another victory.”
Mike Conway (Driver, car #7):
“It feels like Le Mans has only just ended but it’s good to be racing again and I’m happy to get back behind the wheel so soon. Directly after Le Mans my focus switched towards the World Championship and, even though we didn’t get the result we wanted on our #7 car in Le Mans, the double points has brought us back into the fight. We were fast last year in Monza; our GR010 HYBRID is built for high-speed circuits like this. So we are definitely targeting a win this weekend to close the gap and get our season on track again.”
José María López (Driver, car #7):
“Monza is a circuit which I really enjoy and I have some nice memories from there, not just from our victory last year but also earlier in my career when I had some good races there. It’s a fast, old-style circuit, a bit like Le Mans, and our GR010 HYBRID feels at home on tracks like that. Even though Le Mans was only a few weeks ago, I know the team has worked hard to be ready for this race. I am confident we will have a strong car and can challenge for the win, even against increased competition. We need to have a clean, trouble-free weekend and that will be our priority.”
Sébastien Buemi (Driver, car #8):
“Obviously it was fantastic to win Le Mans again and, looking to the rest of the season, the double points puts us back in the fight for the World Championship which is great. I am sure it will be close again with the #7 car; we saw at Le Mans that there is nothing between the two crews and it all comes down to small details. I am looking forward to continuing that fight at Monza, which is a circuit I really enjoy. It’s great to race in Italy, where I have spent a lot of time over the years; it’s always nice to be back and to meet the Italian fans, who are so enthusiastic and welcoming.”
Brendon Hartley (Driver, car #8):
“Monza will be an interesting race for us, with new competition coming to Hypercar. It should be more competitive than ever at the sharp end of the grid and we’re looking forward to that challenge. Of course, on the #8 car we go into this race full of confidence after Le Mans, but we know we face a stern test this week, from the other Hypercar competitors and particularly from our sister car. Mike, Kamui and José pushed us so hard in Le Mans and there was nothing between us, so it should be a really good fight at the front at Monza.”
Ryo Hirakawa (Driver, car #8):
“It has been an amazing few weeks and finally I am getting used to the fact that we won Le Mans. It was an incredible and intense experience, and I am so grateful to the whole team, particularly Sébastien and Brendon, for helping me to achieve my dream. Now I am looking forward to racing at Monza again. I have good memories of the track from my time in LMP2; I won there in the European Le Mans Series in 2017 after a close race. So far it has been a good circuit for me and it’s fun to drive, very high speed and quite challenging. I can’t wait to experience the GR010 HYBRID there for the first time.”
Pictures will be uploaded here during the event