TOYOTA GAZOO Racing experienced a difficult Six Hours of Circuit of the Americas but nevertheless scored its best result since the opening round of the 2015 World Endurance Championship.
Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima finished fourth in the #1 TS040 HYBRID while the #2 of Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin and Mike Conway retired from the race following an accident midway through the race.
The result leaves reigning World Champions TOYOTA third in the manufacturers’ standings with three races remaining, 119 points behind leaders Porsche.
While the race finished in full darkness, six hours earlier it began in blazing sunshine with 33°C air temperatures, promising tough conditions for the drivers inside the closed-cockpit cars.
Sébastien and Alex took the start from fifth and sixth respectively. Although Sébastien briefly took fourth place on the opening laps, the race soon settled into a rhythm with the #1 holding fifth and its sister car directly behind.
The hot conditions required a change of driver and tyres at each pit stop, during which the pit crews, wearing fireproof overalls for the entire six hours, performed flawlessly and kept the time spent in the pits by the TS040 HYBRIDs to a minimum.
Around the one-third distance mark, both TS040 HYBRIDs experienced minor dramas. Firstly, Anthony encountered a problem entering the pit lane and needed to complete a very slow lap to avoid running out of fuel, dropping to sixth in the process.
A little while later, following a 12-minute full course yellow for an LMP2 accident, Mike in the #2 car found himself squeezed by two GT cars whilst fighting his way through traffic. He spun to avoid contact but rejoined still in fifth.
Unfortunately, the #2 did not escape unscathed at the half-distance mark when Mike lost control lapping slower traffic and hit the wall at turn 11. The car sustained damage at the front and rear, retiring from the race on the spot.
Shortly after, the #1 was forced to take a stop and go penalty for the earlier pit-entry incident but from there on, its race went without further issue and it gained a position when the Porsche #18 suffered a technical issue. Kazuki crossed the line to take the chequered flag in fourth, two laps behind the winning Porsche #17.
WEC heads to Asia for its next two races, starting on TOYOTA’s home ground in Japan for the Six Hours of Fuji on 11 October prior to a trip to Shanghai in China on 1 November. Bahrain hosts the season finale on 21 November.
Toshio Sato, Team President: “This was another hot and difficult race, not only for us, but it ended with a reasonable result for the #1 car. It is disappointing to retire for the first time since Le Mans 2014, and for the first time since I joined the team, but unfortunately such things can happen in motorsport. Congratulations to Porsche who again showed very impressive performance and deserved their victory. Now we have to look forward to our home race at Fuji Speedway, which is of course a big highlight in our season. We go to Japan determined to prepare well and perform strongly at Fuji.”
TS040 HYBRID #1 (Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima)
Race: 4th, 183 laps, 7 pit stops. Grid: 5th. Fastest lap: 1min 49.455secs
Anthony Davidson: “It was a tough weekend for us but to finish fourth was a little bonus. The car was quite difficult to drive this week and the conditions were very tough for everyone which didn’t make the racing easy. We made some mistakes so we are looking for a cleaner weekend in Fuji. We will keep fighting and stay motivated for the upcoming races, particularly our home race in Fuji.”
Sébastien Buemi: “It was another difficult weekend for us but we expected that. Even so, I enjoyed my time in the car. We were trying to learn as much as we could for next year, about the track, about the tyres and about the car. We want to make sure that when we come here next year we can be back where we belong; fighting at the front.”
Kazuki Nakajima: “By the time I jumped in the car the heat wasn’t too bad so I didn’t suffer as much as I expected which was good. I pushed hard to the end but it was very difficult, maybe due to the track conditions. We managed to grab fourth place which was better than we expected earlier in the race. I hope that can bring a bit of momentum for Fuji.”
TS040 HYBRID #2 (Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway)
Race: DNF, 89 laps, 3 pit stops. Grid: 6th. Fastest lap: 1min 50.182secs
Alex Wurz: “Austin wasn’t good for us today. It happens, but for the championship it would have been nice to stay ahead of our team-mates because that’s the only contest we are in. We did a very good job with race set-up with all three drivers but we couldn’t take advantage. That’s life and we move on to the next race.”
Stéphane Sarrazin: “Unfortunately we had a DNF due to an accident which can happen sometimes; it’s part of the game. We were having a positive race and the car felt good. We did our best with what we had but it was hard. Now we try to do a very good race in Fuji for our home event.”
Mike Conway: “The car felt good and we were having a decent race. But then I was coming past one of the GT cars and all of a sudden the car stepped out at the rear, then it went the other way. It was a big tank-slapper which really caught me out. It was my mistake and I’m just so sorry for the team.”