The 1000PS, four-wheel-drive TS040 HYBRID won its very first race in convincing fashion thanks to the #8 of Anthony Davidson, Nicolas Lapierre and Sébastien Buemi who take an early lead in the eight-race World Championship.
The #7 of Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin and Kazuki Nakajima completed TOYOTA Racing’s first-ever one-two finish, with a fine second place despite changing weather.
Track conditions varied from completely dry to torrential rain, which ultimately saw the race red flagged less than 30 minutes before the chequered flag.
Alex started from pole and held the advantage during an exciting opening lap which saw Sébastien move from fifth to third.
The TS040 HYBRIDs were at the heart of the action with several position changes before rain came around the 40-minute mark. Both cars pitted for new tyres, the #7 taking wets and the #8 hybrid intermediates.
With the rain soon easing, hybrid intermediate tyres proved the most effective and Sébastien used his four-wheel drive hybrid system to good effect in building a comfortable lead.
Alex lacked grip on the wets so dropped to third and, after around 90 minutes, handed over the #7 to Kazuki, who switched to slicks for the rapidly-drying track. The #8 did likewise soon after when Nicolas took over from Sébastien.
Conditions remained dry, allowing Nicolas to firmly establish the #8 in the lead, with Kazuki tightening his grip on second in the #7 before swapping with Stéphane soon after the halfway point.
A safety car interrupted the drama briefly, during which time Anthony stepped into the race-leading #8.
Heavy rain hit the track with just over an hour remaining and the team responded by calling both cars in for wet tyres, whilst also swapping drivers; Kazuki replacing Stéphane in the #7 and Sébastien swapping with Anthony in the #8.
The safety car was deployed with 40 minutes left before the race was ended early, with further running impossible in the wet conditions. That confirmed TOYOTA Racing’s sixth win from 15 WEC races, its second consecutive victory following its triumph in the 2013 season finale in Bahrain.
As well as the usual winners’ trophies, the #8 crew also claimed the Royal Automobile Club International Tourist Trophy, first awarded in 1905, while Anthony won the Richard Lloyd Trophy for the highest-placed British Racing Drivers Club member.
The second round of the season comes in just two weeks with the Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium on 3 May.
Yoshiaki Kinoshita, Team President: “That was the perfect start to the season and I would like to thank everyone on the team for achieving this one-two victory for TOYOTA Racing. We have worked extremely hard over the winter to prepare the TS040 HYBRID and this is a great reward. We had a big and very enthusiastic crowd here at Silverstone which gave us a nice atmosphere, so I am pleased we could put on a good show for the fans. The weather was a real challenge but the team stayed alert and took the right decisions on strategy. Everyone on the team really earned this result but it is a close fight with Audi and Porsche so we have to continue pushing for the next race at Spa.”
TS040 HYBRID #7 (Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin, Kazuki Nakajima)
Race: 2nd, 166 laps, 6 pit stops. Fastest lap: 1min 44.326secs
Alex Wurz: “That was a really tough race. We saw lots of changing conditions, but it is quite cool actually to test yourself and master such conditions. It is a fantastic result for TOYOTA Racing; a one-two to lead the World Championship. We couldn’t have dreamed of a better result for the team. We also see the competition is very close so it is going to be very tough and we have to push very hard to stay ahead.”
Stéphane Sarrazin: “That was an amazing start to the season for TOYOTA Racing. The team did a great job and also my team-mates drove really well in very difficult conditions. Alex was flying at the start and Kazuki also. I had a good stint. I took no risks and made sure we could complete the result, get the podium and score the points. That was the important thing. It’s a really good day for the team.”
Kazuki Nakajima: “I am happy with our job today. I was pushing as much as was possible considering the conditions but when the gap stretched to more than one minute to the #8 I knew it would be difficult. It’s a great day for the team and a fantastic start to the season. We can be really proud of our first one-two finish; the whole team worked so hard for this and they all deserve to celebrate.”
TS040 HYBRID #8 (Anthony Davidson, Nicolas Lapierre, Sébastien Buemi)
Race: 1st, 167 laps, 6 pit stops. Fastest lap: 1min 44.646secs
Anthony Davidson: “It has been a fantastic weekend and it is brilliant to win my home race. The team did a fantastic job all weekend. It looked like it would be an epic fight with Audi and Porsche if it had stayed dry, but we knew the rain was coming and we had set our car up for wet conditions. We made the right call on tyres, the strategy was just perfect; that’s how you win races. It is particularly special to also win the Tourist Trophy and the Richard Lloyd Trophy. It is a fantastic achievement and I couldn’t have wished for a better weekend.”
Nicolas Lapierre: “It has been very close since the beginning of the weekend but the team really made a difference today with the strategy. It was spot-on and delivered a dream start to the season for the whole team. Even though we had a big margin it was still nerve-wracking at the end as anything can happen in such conditions. The team did a good job on strategy and this is a nice reward. The first race of the season is always a special occasion so I am particularly proud to win today. It means a lot, not only to win the race but also the Tourist Trophy and join such impressive names.”
Sébastien Buemi: “I am really happy with this result and it is a big credit to the team that we can win in the TS040 HYBRID’s first race. The conditions were very difficult at the end; it was really wet and hard to stay on track even behind the safety car. So I think the race director made the right call to end the race a little early. In general the car felt good and this gives us confidence for the rest of the season. But the competition was close and we can expect another big fight in Spa. We will enjoy this great result and quickly focus on the next race.”