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.”
TOP SIX FOR TOYOTA GAZOO RACING AT NÜRBURGRING
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing finished fifth and sixth in the Six Hours of Nürburgring as the 2015 World Endurance Championship reached its halfway point in Germany today.
The fourth race of the season took place just 90km south of the team’s Cologne base in front of a big crowd – 62,000 over the weekend – at the Nürburgring, hosting LMP1 racing for the first time since 2009.
Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima, in the #1, were the leading TS040 HYBRID in fifth position, with #2 of Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin and Mike Conway finishing sixth.
Today’s result sees reigning World Champions TOYOTA remain third in the manufacturers’ standings, 95 behind Porsche. Alex, Stéphane and Mike are the leading TOYOTA men in the drivers’ championship, in seventh.
Today’s race got underway in brilliant sunshine and with air temperatures approaching 30°C. Kazuki and Mike were at the wheel of their respective cars on an all-TOYOTA third row and both held position during a clean opening lap.
On the short 5.137km Grand Prix track, traffic was a factor as the LMP1 cars had to fight through the pack on the relatively narrow track, requiring the drivers to find the right balance between aggression and caution around the slower cars.
With plenty of action throughout the field, debris on track caused two full course yellows in the third hour but it was a lonely race for the TS040 HYBRIDs, with fifth and sixth place looking unlikely to change as half distance came and went.
The two 1,000hp TOYOTAs kept up a consistent pace and performed reliably to take the chequered flag with Anthony and Alex at the wheel, as the #17 Porsche won from the #18 sister car.
The second half of the WEC season begins next month, with a trip to Austin, Texas for the Six Hours of Circuit of the Americas on 19 September. That marks the first of four non-European rounds which will decide the championship standings.
Toshio Sato, Team Principal: “The team performed professionally in hot conditions today, with clean pit stops, good race management and solid driving, but unfortunately the result is disappointing. We were not quick enough to challenge. Again, we have seen a very high level of competition in LMP1, with no major mechanical failures, and this shows how tough the battle is. I was impressed to see so many fans, many from Toyota Germany and Toyota Europe, in the grandstands today so I would like to thank them for their support. The European leg of the season is now over so we will push, in Cologne and Japan, to be ready for the final four races. We will stay determined to take any opportunity which comes our way.”
TS040 HYBRID #1 (Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima)
Race: 5th, 200 laps, 6 pit stops. Grid: 5th. Fastest lap: 1min 40.207secs
Anthony Davidson: “We did a perfect job today from our side; there was no more that we could have done. Thanks to the engineers and mechanics for a good day’s work, with no issues at all. We are all looking forward to the upcoming races to see if we have some better chances; we are not going to give up pushing. We gave everything today and at least it was good fun trying.”
Sébastien Buemi: “It was a good job from the whole crew. We did what we could and never lost concentration so I am happy with that. We did our best and we had no technical issues. I am satisfied with how we operated today. We cannot be happy with the result. Now we go to the next races and see what possibilities will come.”
Kazuki Nakajima: “It was a lonely race for us and realistically it was only a fight between our two cars. You never know so we didn’t give up and I think we got the most out of our package. It went okay for me; I am quite happy with my stints and my lap times. We will continue to fight and do everything we can.”
TS040 HYBRID #2 (Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway)
Race: 6th, 199 laps, 6 pit stops. Grid: 6th. Fastest lap: 1min 40.738secs
Alex Wurz: “It was nice to race in Germany and it was really impressive to have so many people here; that was cool. The race wasn’t perfect for us so we need to look into the details of where we lost some time. We have to stay sharp and always optimise the package we have, that’s our job for the rest of the season.”
Stéphane Sarrazin: “We did the best race we could, with full effort and always hoping for an opportunity. We pushed hard and did our maximum without any mistakes. The result is not what we wanted but that’s how it goes sometimes. I have enjoyed the event and it’s been really nice to see how many fans were here today.”
Mike Conway: “It was nice to start the race for the first time and get a feel for how it is. I struggled a bit with car balance in the first stint but when I got back in the car later in the race it felt quite good. I pushed all the way to the end and concentrated on putting in the fastest lap times we could. It went okay but of course we aim for better in Austin.”
A New Era for the World Champions
TOYOTA Racing enters the 2015 World Endurance Championship ready to start a new era with the defence of its two titles.
TOYOTA became the first Japanese company to win the World Championship during a very successful 2014 season, which saw Anthony Davidson and Sébastien Buemi also win the drivers’ title.
In a period where energy efficiency is a key performance factor, the TS040 HYBRID proved to be the class of the field, taking five wins from eight races.
The championship-winning car has been updated for 2015, with updated aerodynamics, revised front end including crash structure and new suspension kinematics to optimize tyre usage, plus additional weight saving.
The TS040 HYBRID will again benefit from the proven TOYOTA HYBRID System – Racing powertrain, which boasts excellent thermal efficiency and delivers a total maximum power of over 1,000PS.
As with last season, the TS040 HYBRID will compete within the 6MJ hybrid category with enhancements, such as modifications to the super capacitor construction to increase performance.
The team has prepared two different aerodynamic packages for this season, both of which will be tested at Paul Ricard this week. The Le Mans option is better suited to the high-speed La Sarthe track while the sprint package generates higher levels of downforce due to revisions on the rear wing, engine cover and front bodywork.
Development began directly after last year’s Le Mans 24 Hours and the updated car was tested for the first time on 13 January at Paul Ricard. Further three-day tests at Motorland Aragon (twice) and Portimao mean the 2015 TS040 HYBRID has completed over 25,000km prior to today’s official launch.
Hisatake Murata, General Manager, Motor Sports Unit Development Division: “We have put huge effort into upgrading the whole car, including the powertrain, where we have made improvements in most areas. This means that total maximum power is over 1,000PS and the performance of the powertrain has been considerably enhanced. Our development means we will achieve the maximum hybrid energy more consistently than last season. Therefore we fully expect to see a performance improvement from the hybrid system, especially over race distances, and at every circuit. Our 2015 upgrades are another step towards producing ever-better hybrid cars and, once again, components and techniques from the TS040 HYBRID will be utilised to improve TOYOTA road cars.”
Pascal Vasselon, Technical Director: “The regulations have been essentially stable so there was no reason to review completely our concept, considering our performance throughout 2014. So the updated car is no revolution but it’s an evolution almost everywhere. It looks like it is from the same family; nevertheless we have redesigned roughly 80% of the parts. Again this season we will have high and low downforce packages, for the usual reason that Le Mans has very different requirements compared to most other tracks. The current regulations favour more subtle changes between these packages to keep the drag reasonably low, such as modifications to the rear wing, engine cover and front end. So far we are satisfied with our progress during the ‘one-car race’ that is testing. Now we have a few weeks remaining to get ready for the serious business of racing.”