TOYOTA GAZOO Racing suffered disappointment in the fifth round of the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) despite a podium finish in the 6 Hours of Mexico.
Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima in the #8 TS050 HYBRID earned the team’s fifth podium of the season with third place in Mexico City, but that did not mask the team’s frustration at not being able to challenge Porsche.
The #7 TS050 HYBRID of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López finished fourth, with both cars one lap behind the winning Porsche #2.
That result hurts the team’s challenge in both World Championships; TOYOTA now trails Porsche by 56.5 points in the manufacturers’ standings while the #8 drivers are 41 points off the lead of the drivers’.
Despite using the high-downforce TS050 HYBRIDs, race performance was compromised by a relative lack of downforce in the thin air at 2,285m altitude. That put both cars at a disadvantage compared to the opposition and this became evident from the start.
In the opening stint, Mike in the #7 led the TOYOTA challenge from third with Sébastien close behind in fourth, but both dropped back from the leaders.
Soon after the 90-minute mark, Sébastien took advantage of traffic to pass Mike and moved the #8 up to third, although he had a scare soon after when the #28 car hit him in a slow corner, earning the LMP2 driver a warning from race stewards.
The half distance point was passed with José María at the wheel of the #7 and Kazuki in the #8, with both cars taking turns to hold third place as the momentum switched between the two.
When Kamui and Anthony took their stints behind the wheel, they experienced the first full course yellow of the race, when a baseball from the nearby sports complex found its way on track with 90 minutes remaining.
Another followed for debris with an hour remaining and, as the race entered its final 35 minutes, a few rain drops began to fall but the predicted downpour never materialised.
In order to maximise the points total for the World Championship-chasing #8 crew, the team controlled the final stint and Kamui eased off to allow Sébastien to take the chequered flag in third despite a short fuel stop in the final minutes.
The team does not need to wait long for the opportunity to improve on today’s result, with the sixth round of the season taking place across the United States border at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas on 16 September.
Hisatake Murata, Team President: “It has been a very disappointing race. We came here with the target of winning and enhancing our chances in both World Championships but we could not challenge Porsche. Congratulations to them on the victory. The team, including the drivers, gave their maximum this week but we did not get the result we wanted so we must now prepare for the next race. We do not give up on our dream of winning the World Championship so we will push hard to be competitive in the next race.”
TS050 HYBRID #7 (Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, José María López)
Race: 4th, 239 laps, 6 pit stops. Grid: 3rd. Fastest lap: 1min 26.240secs
Mike Conway (TS050 HYBRID #7): “We were pushing as hard as we could to stay with the leaders but we could not fight at all today which is frustrating. In the end it was just about doing the best we could and hoping for something, but no rain came and Porsche had a clean race. We will be working hard to be stronger in the next event.”
Kamui Kobayashi (TS050 HYBRID #7): “I did my best but unfortunately we couldn’t put any pressure on Porsche today. We know our car is not optimum on this track but at the next races we should be better so we concentrate on fighting back strongly. It is a pity to miss the podium but that’s racing and we are motivated to do better in Austin.”
José María López (TS050 HYBRID #7): “In qualifying we managed a very good performance so we hoped that we could be competitive today, but we didn’t have the pace. We did the best we could and did a good clean race. I am happy with my performance, as well as from Mike, Kamui and the whole team.”
TS050 HYBRID #8 (Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson, Kazuki Nakajima)
Race: 3rd, 239 laps, 6 pit stops. Grid: 4th. Fastest lap: 1min 26.445secs
Sébastien Buemi (TS050 HYBRID #8): “It was a tough race. We expected it to be difficult after practice and we didn’t have the speed to fight. I am happy with my driving today because I did three stints, so more than three hours. I am pleased with the reliability as well because the car ran smoothly; we were just not quick enough.”
Anthony Davidson (TS050 HYBRID #8): “That was a very difficult race for us. We seemed to lack downforce because we were fast on the straight but not around the corners, especially the twisty sector two. I personally struggled with the balance of the car; it felt different to what it did in free practice. So a podium for third is the best we could do.”
Kazuki Nakajima (TS050 HYBRID #8): “It was at least good to finish the race cleanly and be on the podium again after a difficult race for all of us. It’s the first proper podium for our car since the win at Spa so that was nice. That was the maximum we could do from a tough weekend overall.”
|6 Hours of Mexico result|
|1st||#2 Porsche (Bernhard/Bamber/Hartley)||240 laps|
|2nd||#1 Porsche (Jani/Lotterer/Tandy)||+7.141secs|
|3rd||#8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing||+1 lap|
|4th||#7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing||+1 lap|
|5th||#31 Rebellion (Canal/Senna/Albuquerque)||+21 laps|
|6th||#36 Alpine (Lapierre/Menezes/Negrao)||+21 laps|