SHANGHAI STRUGGLE

World Endurance Championship

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing suffered a race to forget in a wet Six Hours of Shanghai, the penultimate round of the 2015 World Endurance Championship.

Both TS040 HYBRIDs finished in the top six, with the #2 of Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin and Mike Conway earning fifth place. Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima were sixth in the #1.

But it was a disappointing race for the 2014 World Champions, marked by incidents and bad luck, which prevented the TS040 HYBRIDs repeating the fighting performance shown in similar conditions last time out at Fuji.

Persistent rain throughout the morning meant the first 12 minutes of the race ran behind the safety car and, following some position-swapping on the first racing lap, Anthony established the #1 in fifth, ahead of Mike in the sister car.

That changed around the 90-minute mark when a slow puncture forced Anthony to pit, just a few laps into his second stint. That put the #2, now with Alex behind the wheel, in fifth, just ahead of Kazuki in the #1.

Heavier rain made the track treacherous and this took its toll on many participants. At the restart following another full-course yellow in the second hour, the two TS040 HYBRIDs swapped positions when Alex spun.

However, that was only a temporary switch as Kazuki spun on the last corner at the two-hour mark, losing more than a lap whilst he was dragged out of the gravel, although he only lost one place and emerged in sixth.

Into the second half of the race, the track began to dry so the #1 took a chance at its next scheduled stop by becoming the first car to switch to hybrid intermediate tyres, although conditions initially were too slippery and Sébastien lost time.

As the race entered its final third, Alex brought the #2 into the pits for hybrid intermediates and Stéphane, who celebrates his 40th birthday tomorrow, resumed in fifth.

With the track now drying, the lap times fell and as the last hour approached, Stéphane switched to slick tyres. Sébastien was pushing hard a lap behind in sixth, with his lap times close to those of the leaders in cool, slightly damp conditions.

Ultimately the #2 had a sufficient gap and Stéphane took the flag in fifth. Sébastien brought the #1 home sixth, with the two TS040 HYBRIDs respectively four and five laps behind the winning #17 Porsche.

Today’s result confirmed Porsche as the 2015 manufacturers’ World Champions, succeeding TOYOTA. The drivers’ title will be decided in the last race of the season, the Six Hours of Bahrain on 21 November.

Toshio Sato, Team President: “This has been a disappointing day. The track conditions never quite worked out for us and we had a few incidents, including some bad luck with the slow puncture for the #1. The weather was very difficult for everyone so thanks to the team for a professional job. We fought as hard as we could but unfortunately fifth and sixth was the best we could manage. Congratulations to Porsche on winning the manufacturers’ World Championship. We have been very proud to wear the #1 this year and we are sad it will leave us, but Porsche are worthy champions following some very strong performances. We are sure we will give them more of a fight next year.”

TS040 HYBRID #1 (Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima)
Race: 6th, 164 laps, 7 pit stops. Grid: 5th. Fastest lap: 1min 48.685secs

Anthony Davidson: “It was my first race start for a while and I enjoyed it. I got stuck in and managed to overtake an Audi which brought back memories from last year. We pushed as hard as we could in all conditions. Unfortunately when it rained again and Kazuki found himself in the gravel we could only keep going and hope for the best. Thanks to the car crew who did a fantastic job with some quick pit stops.”

Sébastien Buemi: “I am a bit disappointed with today. We didn’t have a clean race; we could have done slightly better. It is part of racing and the conditions were tricky. We took a risk on the hybrid intermediate tyre which almost paid off. We will try to find a positive out of today. Let’s keep pushing for the next race.”

Kazuki Nakajima: “It was a difficult day, especially for me. I made a mistake when it started to rain quite heavily and lost a lot of time in the gravel. I feel sorry for the team, especially my car crew who did a great job as always today. In the end we did the best we could do after that. I will learn from this mistake and push again for the next race.”

TS040 HYBRID #2 (Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway)
Race: 5th, 165 laps, 6 pit stops. Grid: 6th. Fastest lap: 1min 49.374secs

Alex Wurz: “This was a very difficult race. Usually I love the wet conditions but today the car was very difficult to drive; we had some issues. Let’s just say it was character building.”

Stéphane Sarrazin: “There is nothing special to say about this race. We did the best job we could and we finished fifth. The sister car had an issue so at least we won the competition between the TOYOTAs. We experienced almost every kind of condition today and we will take away some useful information.”

Mike Conway: “The conditions at the start were really tricky; visibility was bad but it is the same for everyone. I just struggled to get the tyres into the right operating window. Towards the end of my stint they seemed to get there and the lap times improved. They were really difficult track conditions which were changing all the time. Fifth is one place up from where we started and at least it brings us a bit closer to the #1 crew in the championship.”