KUWAIT: GAZOO Racing (GR) claimed the 2019-2020 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) title with a stunning one-two victory in the 8 Hours of Bahrain recently. Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José Maria Lopez took first place in the No 7 TS050 Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) during the eighth and final race of the season, which also marked the last WEC championship appearance for Toyota's three-time Le Mans-winning vehicle.
The No 7 TS050 HEV crew overturned a points deficit going into the season finale to win from pole position, earning a well-deserved major title. Meanwhile, the outgoing World Champions Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima delivered a perfect result for the GR team alongside Brendon Hartley in the No 8 TS050 HEV to earn second place, 64.594seconds behind.
The race brought the curtain down on the LMP1 era in endurance racing, in which GR has participated since 2012. During its 64 races, the team has won 29, earned 26 pole positions and set 24 fastest laps, winning both the teams' and drivers' World Championship in three of its eight seasons. GR has managed to reduce fuel consumption by 35% since 2012, while maintaining the outstanding performance of its vehicles.
Since its 2016 debut, the TS050 HEV has been raced by 11 different drivers in 34 races, winning Le Mans three times as part of 19 WEC victories, earning 16 pole positions and setting 15 fastest laps in the process- including at the legendary Circuit de la Sarthe. The final WEC race of the season was a straight fight between the two TS050 HEVs for victory and the world title, with No 7 TS050 HEV holding a theoretical 0.54-second success handicap1 advantage over the No 8 TS050 HEV as a result of the standings going into this event. Conway started from pole position and established a lead that Kobayashi and Lopez extended consistently throughout the next eight hours.
The success handicap proved challenging for the No 8 TS050 HEV crew, and, despite a valiant effort, the gap expanded to 75 seconds soon after the half-distance mark. Going into the final quarter of the race, the lead was reduced to around 30 seconds, leaving no margin for error. But the No 7 TS050 HEV crew rose to the challenge and established a one-minute lead during the final hour, with Kobayashi crossing the line to win after 263 laps, taking the World Championship title in the process.
"Congratulations to Conway, Kobayashi and Lopez on winning the final round and winning the championship! Buemi, Hartley and Nakajima also performed strongly in the last race of the TS050 HEV. Thank you for driving well and achieving a one-two finish!" commented Akio Toyoda, President, Toyota Motor Corporation. "In 2018, we were able to reach our goal of being on top at Le Mans. And in 2019 and 2020, we achieved three straight victories at Le Mans. We were able to develop the car so that drivers could push to the limit."
Toyoda continued: "The TS050 HEV competed in 34 races, took 16 pole positions, and we were able to win 15 fastest laps and 19 victories. And with a one-two finish at the last race, the smiles of Conway, Kobayashi and Lopez give us the best motivation for our next car. Then, we are able to happily move into the battle with our upcoming Hypercar. To the drivers, engineers and mechanics who drove this car, to all the supporters and fans who supported us, I sincerely thank you. The desire to make ever-better cars will not change. We hope that all the fans will continue to support and be part of GAZOO Racing. Thank you!"
Mike Conway, Driver of the No 7 TS050 HEV, said: "It's a great feeling to be standing here as a World Champion at the end of a tough but fantastic season. I want to say a big thanks to the team for giving Lopez, Kobayashi and me the chance to achieve this. The No 7 crew and my team-mates did a perfect job throughout the season so this feels really good. I am a bit sad that this was the last race for the TS050 HEV, but it finished perfectly for us."
Sebastien Buemi, Driver of the No 8 TS050 HEV, said: "Congratulations to vehicle No 7 and congratulations to the team who did a race without mistakes. In our vehicle, the success handicap was quite strong, but I am happy with the race we did; we did a perfect job. Now that's it for the TS050 HEV; I thought about this in my last laps of the race and enjoyed it."
Over the years, Toyota has been participating in many different forms of motorsports, including Formula One, the World Endurance Championship (WEC), and the Nurburgring 24 Hours endurance race. Toyota's participation in these events was overseen by separate entities within the company until April 2015, when Toyota established GR, to consolidate all of its motorsports activities under one in-house brand. Representing Toyota's belief that 'the roads build the people, and the people build the cars,' GR highlights the role of motorsports as a fundamental pillar of Toyota's commitment to making 'ever-better' cars.
Harnessing years of experience gained under the extreme conditions of various motorsports events, GR aims to forge new technologies and solutions that bring the freedom, adventure, and joy of driving to everyone. While the desert dust is settling on the 2019-2020 season, preparations for the six-race 2021 campaign are already underway with endurance tests for the GR team's new Hypercar planned in the coming months, prior to its race debut in the 1,000 Miles of Sebring on 19 March.