TOYOTA GAZOO Racing experienced a disappointing end to the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season in the 6 Hours of Bahrain.
The #5 TS050 HYBRID of Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima was the lead TOYOTA in fourth, just the third time this year that the team has missed out on the podium.
Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi in the #6 car began the race with an outside chance of the drivers’ World Championship, but fifth place was not enough to overhaul the Porsche #2 crew of Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb.
The #6 crew finished the season a creditable third in the drivers’ standings, 15 points behind the champions, with their #5 counterparts 8th following a series of misfortunes this year.
TOYOTA’s finally tally from the nine-race season stands at one win, seven podium finishes and 229 points with the TS050 HYBRID, earning third position in the manufacturers’ World Championship.
Today’s race represented Audi’s final appearance in the championship. The team marked the occasion by displaying messages on both TS050 HYBRIDs and presenting a commemorative banner to the Head of Audi Motorsport, Dr Wolfgang Ullrich.
When the race got under way, Kamui in the #6 fought hard with #7 Audi but could not stay ahead, instead he put pressure on from fifth with Sébastien just behind in the sister car.
The Porsche #2 suffered a puncture after almost one hour, elevating the #5 to fourth place, with the #6 now in fifth as the sun set and darkness took hold at the Bahrain International Circuit.
The order stayed that way through the first half of the race, as track temperatures dropped slightly in the darkness. But after the halfway point, the two TS050 HYBRIDs swapped position several times, both in the pits and on track.
The #1 Porsche remained out of reach in third place despite consistent efforts from all TOYOTA drivers as the end of the race approached.
When the chequered flag fell, Sébastien crossed the line in fourth place, a lap behind the winning Audi #8. Mike followed 38.685secs later to complete a frustrating weekend.
The team’s focus will now switch to 2017 preparations, with an intense pre-season testing schedule to fine-tune an updated TS050 HYBRID in time for the opening race, at Silverstone on 16 April.
Those preparations begin already on Sunday with a two-car test session in Bahrain, which also sees promising LMP2 driver Pipo Derani test the TS050 HYBRID as part of the WEC’s rookie driver initiative.
Toshio Sato, Team President: “We were hoping for more from this race. We gave everything to stand on the podium again but our speed was not enough compared to Audi’s exceptional performance. Not only was this the final race of a tough season but today we also said goodbye to a great competitor. We will miss competing as three manufacturers in LMP1. Congratulations to Audi for bringing their WEC era to an end with a deserved victory, and congratulations also to the Porsche #2 drivers on becoming World Champions. We will now focus on 2017, when we will come back stronger and ready to fight at the front.”
TS050 HYBRID #5 (Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima)
Race: 4th, 200 laps, 6 pit stops. Grid: 6th. Fastest lap: 1min 42.867secs
Anthony Davidson: “It was a frustrating race for us. We gave it everything but we didn’t quite have the speed to challenge for the podium. It’s a sad way to end the season but it’s not been a great year for car #5 so I am pleased to see the back of it. I want to say congratulations not only to the Porsche #2 drivers but also to Audi. It was a very impressive display which sets the standard for next season.”
Sébastien Buemi: “In the last race of the season I am pleased for Audi that they win with a one-two. We would have loved to have been on the podium but we didn’t have the pace today. We were hoping to give a better opportunity for car #6 to fight for the drivers’ championship but it wasn’t to be this weekend.”
Kazuki Nakajima: “Firstly well done to the Porsche #2 drivers and big congratulations to Audi for the one-two. For us it was a difficult race because we didn’t have the pace to fight at the front; Audi were basically untouchable. The car felt okay to drive and I was happy enough with it; I think we did a decent job.”
TS050 HYBRID #6 (Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi)
Race: 5th, 200 laps, 6 pit stops. Grid: 5th. Fastest lap: 1min 43.096secs
Stéphane Sarrazin: “I’m a bit sad to finish the season off the podium. It was a difficult race for us; we didn’t feel good with the car. Audi did an incredible job so well done to them. Well done also to Porsche #2. We were really fast since Mexico, with some very good results and a big highlight with the win at Fuji. All the team did a great job; we enjoyed this year together and for me it was still a positive season.”
Mike Conway: “It was a tough day really. We thought it would be very close and we would be able to fight but Audi were so strong, it was impressive. Congratulations also to the Porsche #2 guys. Towards the end of the race it got really difficult with so much rubber stuck in the front of the car; I lost a lot of front grip. The team has plenty to be proud of this season so we will look back on the positives.”
Kamui Kobayashi: “Congratulations to Audi for winning their last race in WEC and of course Porsche #2 won the title so well done to them. We had a good fight with them all season right until the last race but unfortunately we couldn’t do it today. It’s a pity to end with fifth place but we didn’t have the performance here that we hoped for. We are frustrated with this race but we will come back stronger.”
6 Hours of Bahrain results:
1st #8 Audi (di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis) 201 laps
2nd #7 Audi (Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer) +16.419secs
3rd #1 Porsche (Bernhard/Webber/Hartley) +1min 17.001secs
4th #5 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +1 lap
5th #6 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +1 lap
6th #2 Porsche (Dumas/Jani/Lieb) +3 laps