8 Hours of Bahrain: Race
Title-deciding Bahrain win for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing brought the curtain down on a thrilling 2023 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season with a one-two victory in the 8 Hours of Bahrain to decide the destination of the drivers’ title
Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa won the race in their #8 GR010 HYBRID to secure their second successive drivers’ World Championship. Sébastien and Brendon also set a new record of four drivers’ title apiece, while Ryo has now won titles in both his seasons of Hypercar competition so far.
A battling race from Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López in the #7 GR010 HYBRID saw a fine recovery drive following a first-corner incident. They needed victory to challenge for the title but had to settle for second place, earning runners-up spot in the championship.
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing confirmed its fifth consecutive World Championship double of manufacturers’ and drivers’ titles for the perfect end to an exciting season of Hypercar competition which featured fierce challenges from Cadillac, Ferrari, Glickenhaus, Peugeot, Porsche and Vanwall.
That challenge continued into the final race of the season, which began on a hot, sunny afternoon in Bahrain. Sébastien led from pole position but the #7 crew’s title chances were derailed a few metres later when Mike was knocked out of second place at the first corner by the #2 Cadillac, dropping him to the back of the field.
He immediately began a stirring fight back, pulling off a series of decisive overtaking manoeuvres to pass the Peugeots and Porsches within opening first 35 minutes to get back into the top five. Meanwhile, Sébastien’s consistent speed at the front saw him build an advantage over the two Ferraris.
As the first pit stops approached at the one-hour mark, Mike made two more stunning overtakes to return to the top three, passing the #50 Ferrari before muscling his way beyond the #38 Hertz Team Jota Porsche into third a few moments later.
Sébastien stretched his lead further through the second hour while Mike closed on the second-placed #51 Ferrari, although tyre degradation prevented him finding a way past. Just before the start of hour three, Mike handed the #7 to Kamui, who quickly set a new fastest lap and made the move on the #51 Ferrari for second.
Brendon took the wheel of the #8 and led the race as darkness fell, with Kamui around half a minute behind. Pacy and precise driving through the lapped traffic saw the situation stabilise at the front and, at half distance, José and Ryo began their stints with the GR010 HYBRIDs running comfortably in first and second.
As the race entered its last two hours, the penultimate driver changes saw Mike return to the #7 and Sébastien resume battle in the #8. Kamui and Brendon took over for the final hour of the race. With a 40-second advantage in the lead, Brendon guided the #8 safely through the closing laps while Kamui was under no threat from behind but nevertheless showed the pace of the #7 by setting the fastest lap of the race.
The chequered flag waved for Brendon after 249 laps and he finished 47.516secs ahead of Kamui in the #7. That brought the 2023 season to an end after seven events, 64 hours of racing and six wins for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing, including four one-twos, to take the team’s tally to 45 victories since its WEC debut in 2012.
Kamui Kobayashi (Team Principal and driver, car #7): “It was an amazing performance to end the season; we achieved everything we could with a one-two in the last race. Obviously, there was not a big chance for car #7 to win the title but congratulations to everyone on car #8, they did a fantastic job. We always race hard between the two cars, and it was close at every race. That is a real achievement from the team and the drivers, who didn’t make any mistakes. Thank you to our partners and our colleagues in Japan for their support, and of course thank you to Sato san and Morizo san for helping us to be so strong. This year we faced competition from so many manufacturers, and we proved the strength of our car and our team. It is definitely a proud moment for all of us to end the season like this.”
Mike Conway (Driver, car #7): “There are mixed emotions at the end of the season. We were coming into this race on the back foot, trying to make up some points on our sister car but the incident in turn one set us back. That made it difficult because I had to push to get past a lot of cars, which was hard on the tyres. We did our best but second was the most we could achieve today. Congratulations to car #8 on the title, it is well deserved. Big thanks to everyone on car #7 for working so hard this year, including my team-mates Kamui and José who always did a solid job. We had a strong season and to win four times was great.”
José María López (Driver, car #7): “It has been an amazing year for the team and a great performance from everyone. The two car crews pushed each other in every race but we always worked together as a team., which is the most important. Congratulations to Séb, Brendon and Ryo for winning the race today and of course the championship. On our car, we had a nice year with a lot to celebrate so I am really happy to have been part of it. We tried our best to win today and give ourselves a chance in the championship but after the first corner, it was pretty much impossible. But we fought back well and I’m pleased with the result in the end.”
Sébastien Buemi (Driver, car #8): “It feels amazing to win the World Championship again, I am really thankful to the team. Everything went well and in the end we managed to win the race and the championship, so it was a fantastic evening. I think we deserved it this year. Obviously, not winning Le Mans was difficult but we showed our strength and won the championship ahead of such tough competition. It is always special to win but this title was won with consistency. Even though we were not always the fastest car, we scored points everywhere, even in the difficult races. We finished on a high and this is the best way to win a championship.”
Brendon Hartley (Driver, car #8): “It has been an amazing year. I am really proud to be part of the #8 crew and this TOYOTA GAZOO Racing team. Thanks to everyone for a fantastic season. We have had some fierce battles with car #7 and the other Hypercar competitors all year and today was no different. There were times when we were not the fastest car on the track so we were really pushing. Seb had the most stressful part of the race today, getting through the first corner cleanly but he and Ryo did a great job. Becoming a four-time World Champion is probably going to take a while to sink in, but it sounds really nice.”
Ryo Hirakawa (Driver, car #8): “It is great to win the championship with a victory. We worked so hard to achieve this, so I am really happy. It has been a tough year at times, but we always kept pushing and we won the title again. We have always faced strong competitors and difficult conditions; this race was maybe even tougher than usual. We tried to build a gap and maintain it, but it was not easy with the tyre degradation. This is my second championship in a row, and I could not have imagined this two years ago. I want to say thank you to Toyota for this opportunity and to everyone in the team for their hard work. I want to dedicate this result to them as appreciation for giving me this chance.”
For all the news and more like, share, follow or subscribe to our social media channels.
X @en_toyota: https://twitter.com/en_toyota