SPA PAIN

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing lost a likely victory in the second round of the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) when mechanical issues hit both cars at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium today.

TOYOTA, which started the race as manufacturers’ World Championship leaders, led comfortably after four hours and looked set to take victory in the WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, its first since 2014.

But engine problems for both TS050 HYBRIDs put them out of contention. The #5 of Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima was classified 27th, but earned 10 points in terms of manufacturers’ World Championship points. The #6 of Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi retired.

Prior to the mechanical issues, the two TS050 HYBRIDs demonstrated significantly improved performance. The #5 had been leading by over a minute, with the #6 in third after an earlier accident with a lapped car required it to pit for repairs.

TOYOTA’s next race is the Le Mans 24 Hours on 18 June, when 250,000 spectators will witness the 84th edition of the world’s most famous endurance race. Prior to that, the official test day at Circuit de la Sarthe takes place on 5 June.

Toshio Sato, Team President: “We saw positive signs in terms of performance but the end result is very hard to take. Thanks to the great effort from the team in Cologne and Higashi-Fuji, we showed a clear improvement compared to Silverstone. We consistently set very strong lap times and were able to lead the race until the last two hours. But unfortunately we experienced damaged engines on both cars. Now we will urgently address what has happened and find counter-measures before Le Mans.”

TS050 HYBRID #5 (Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima)

Race: 27th, 114 laps, 5 pit stops. Grid: 5th. Fastest lap: 1min 59.740secs

Anthony Davidson: “Obviously it is really disappointing, having looked so good earlier in the race. I really feel we deserved it today and it was cruelly taken away due to a problem we have never seen before. In all of the kilometres we have done in testing, we have never seen such a problem. Now we have to dust ourselves off and get ready for Le Mans.”

Sébastien Buemi: “We cannot be happy but we have to take the positives. We were leading the race by a long way and I don’t remember the last time that happened. The performance was there and that is the positive out of this weekend. Now we focus on Le Mans and fight back.”

Kazuki Nakajima: “A difficult day for us. I think we did everything right in terms of tyre choice, downforce level and strategy. The positive side is that we were really competitive and we showed we can fight. But it’s disappointing to end like this, because it was a great chance to win. I feel sorry for all the team.”

TS050 HYBRID #6 (Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi)

Race: DNF, 87 laps, 6 pit stops. Grid: 3rd. Fastest lap: 2min 00.177secs

Stéphane Sarrazin: “It was a very difficult day; the most difficult for us in a long time. We had strong performance and both cars should have finished on the podium. We looked good and that’s encouraging for Le Mans. We have the car to fight and we have one month to get ready.”

Mike Conway: “That was tough. I made a mistake, touching an LMP2 car and that damaged our race. After that we were pushing as much as we could and got up into the podium places. We had a good strategy and things were working out. We could have had two podium finishes today but it wasn’t to be.”

Kamui Kobayashi: “Unfortunately it is a disappointing result for us. We showed the performance but we couldn’t show the result which is a real pity. The encouraging fact is the strong performance of the TS050 HYBRID, so we are looking forward to Le Mans.”