TOYOTA GAZOO Racing played its part in an exciting but ultimately disappointing Six Hours of Fuji, finishing fifth and sixth in its home race.
In front of an enthusiastic crowd, including many supporters from TOYOTA Motor Corporation, the two TS040 HYBRIDs were significantly more competitive in the wet weather conditions early in the race.
But incidents for both cars and a relative lack of pace in dry conditions caused frustration. The #1 TS040 HYBRID of Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima finished fifth after a drive-through penalty ended its battle for the top four.
The #2 of Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin and Mike Conway needed a lengthy repair stop after being hit by a GT car and fought back to finish sixth.
The first 40 minutes took place behind the safety car on a wet track with rain still falling. Kazuki and Alex started in fifth and sixth respectively. When racing did begin, a hectic start saw Kazuki in third, while Alex held fourth before falling back to sixth despite a gallant fight.
Kazuki’s battle with the #17 Porsche was a highlight of the race as he showed immense fighting spirit to trade places before ultimately dropping to fourth shortly before the hour mark.
The first pit stops left the #1 in fifth, one place ahead of the #2. As the rain eased Anthony closed on the fourth-placed #8 Audi, with the TS040 HYBRID performing strongly in the damp conditions.
With the track drying, both cars changed to hybrid intermediate tyres but TOYOTA’s race chances were dealt two blows soon after.
First, Stéphane was hit by a GT car, damaging the cooling system and requiring a 13-minute stop for repairs. Mike rejoined in the #2 in 19th place, 12 laps down. At the same time, Anthony was given a drive-through penalty for a pit lane entry infringement.
With conditions improving, both cars switched to dry tyres for the final quarter of the race. By that time Sébastien was at the wheel of the #1 in fifth place, while Mike had made his way into the top eight.
Home hero Kazuki took the wheel of the #1 for the final stint and crossed the line in fifth place, while Alex continued progress for the #2 and reclaimed sixth position in the closing minutes.
TOYOTA remains third in the manufacturers’ World Championship, 145 points behind leaders Porsche, who won the race with the #17 car.
Only two races remain in the 2015 WEC season, beginning on 1 November in Shanghai before the finale in Bahrain three weeks later.
Toshio Sato, Team President: “The weather conditions gave us a chance to show improved performance so we were in a much stronger position than at recent races. It was encouraging to see our strong performance on a wet track. But unfortunately for various reasons we couldn’t take advantage of this and it’s disappointing not to have a better result at our home race. Thank you to all the fans that supported us this week. Thanks also to our colleagues from TOYOTA who have given so much support and help. We couldn’t keep up our winning run here at Fuji but we are determined to come back much stronger next year.”
TS040 HYBRID #1 (Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima)
Race: 5th, 214 laps, 6 pit stops. Grid: 5th. Fastest lap: 1min 27.512secs
Anthony Davidson: “The conditions were really tricky today. We got to try the full range of Michelin tyres which made life really difficult for the drivers. We all had a tough time behind the wheel but we had some fun as well. We showed a better pace in the wet which was encouraging. But we still missed the podium so that is disappointing for us at our home track.”
Sébastien Buemi: “I am disappointed with the result. I felt we looked quite good in the wet, definitely closer. But then the gap increased as it got drier which was disappointing. We did a decent race and we can be reasonably happy with our performance today. I just hope we come back next year and get the winners’ trophy again as we did for the previous three seasons.”
Kazuki Nakajima: “As we expected, in the wet conditions we were more competitive. I had a fun fight early in the race with the Porsches; it was difficult to keep ahead because they had more straight line speed. Somehow I stayed ahead of one Porsche until my pit stop; it was exciting. After that the others were a bit faster. At least we could show our spirit to the fans and to everybody. We just keep fighting.”
TS040 HYBRID #2 (Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway)
Race: 6th, 203 laps, 7 pit stops. Grid: 6th. Fastest lap: 1min 27.992secs
Alex Wurz: “First of all I send my gratitude to the fans who come here all the time; they are the best fans you can imagine. After 20 years of professional motor racing I still enjoy coming back to meet them. It’s a pity for them to have such bad weather conditions but on the other hand I think they saw a good race. For our car it was a pity Stéphane got hit by a GT car which took us out of the fight.”
Stéphane Sarrazin: “The race was difficult for our car. In the wet we struggled with low front grip and it was difficult to carry the speed we wanted. I had a problem with a GT car. He crashed into me and that cost us a lot of time. On top of that I pushed to change to hybrid intermediate tyres and then it rained again. Sometimes in these conditions it can go well, other times not; we just have to always learn from these experiences.”
Mike Conway: “It was a tricky day in tricky conditions. It was very hard to get the hybrid intermediates to work. I stayed out there for the switch to slicks when the car seemed to come alive a bit more and towards the end our pace was not bad compared to the other car. We will keep pushing and see what we can do for the final two races of the season.”