By Steve & Tamami Laser
Toyota Gazoo Racing, determined to please its home fans in the 6 Hours of Fuji race today in Japan, earned an impressive one-two victory after battling tough conditions on a wet track early in the race. The race marked the fourth round of the 2018-19 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).
After starting at Fuji Speedway in eighth place, Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López in car #7 crossed the finish line six hours later to win the race. Their hybrid racer was 11.44 seconds ahead of their teammates in car #8, Sébastian Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima, and Fernando Alonso.
With rain-slicked stands filled with home fans and Toyota colleagues cheering them on, both teams used the high-downforce-specification TS050 Hybrid at Fuji. Thanks to their winning ways, Toyota Gazoo Racing captured its home event for the sixth time, from seven WEC races, since returning to endurance racing in 2012.
Take a lap around the Fuji circuit in TS050 Hybrid #7 thanks to this amazing in-car video that was recorded during a practice session before the 6 Hours of Fuji race. (video: Toyota Motorsport GmbH)
“It was not an easy race, especially starting from eighth, but our car performed really well and my teammates did a fantastic job as usual; they were solid and consistent which was exactly what we needed,” said Mike Conway. “It’s great to get another win after coming so close for the last two years, and to get it now at the home race is obviously great.”
It’s celebration time! This video highlights racing action on the track while capturing big-time celebrations at the conclusion of the endurance race. (video: Toyota Motorsport GmbH)
Following the impressive results at Fuji, Toyota Gazoo Racing now leads in the teams’ World Championship by 14 points ahead of second-place Rebellion Racing. Meanwhile, Sébastian, Kazuki and Fernando increased their positions in the drivers’ standings, with Mike, Kamui and José moving up to second.
During the race, when Kazuki handed over to Sébastien after a two tough hours, car #8 was about 10 seconds behind car #7. Yet with fresher tires Sébastian began to narrow the gap on a dry track. Car #8 took the lead when Kamui brought a lengthy two-and-a-half-hour trek to an end, as Mike took to the driver’s seat.
Depending on which car had the freshest tires, positions on the track changed between the two cars. Following a yellow flag with just two hours remaining, José in #7 took the lead by 20 seconds ahead of Fernando in car #8.
During lap 153, José recorded the fastest lap of the race while holding a solid gap at the front prior to handing the lead to Kamui with only 30 minutes remaining. When the chequered flag dropped, Kamui was first to cross the line in car #7, with Kazuki taking second place in car #8.
“The 6 Hours of Fuji this year meant a lot to us; a triumphant home return following the Le Mans 24 Hours, a chance to race again after the disappointment of the previous race, and the home race of Toyota Gazoo Racing,” said Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota Motor Corp. “Thank you very much to all the team members for this one-two finish, and congratulations on the long-awaited win for all on car #7! And for the fans who always support us, thank you very much. We appreciate your continued support.”
Preparation, Practice & Qualifying
Preparations for the 6 Hours of Fuji race started on Friday with two 90-minute practice sessions. On Saturday there was another 60-minute practice session followed by a short 20-minute qualifying to determine grid order.
José, Mike and Kamui pose with Shigeki Tomoyama (third from left), executive vice president of Toyota Motor Corp. and president of Gazoo Racing Co., at the practice session.
In this video, Fernando Alonso talks about his racing experiences in Japan while taking a break from the action at Fuji Speedway. (video: Toyota Motorsport GmbH)
Fernando takes a quick time-out to pose for a photo with the Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 Hybrid car #8 at Fuji Speedway.
Some of Fernando’s dedicated fans put up banners in the stands (above) to show their support during the practice sessions.
Whether they’re walking the track or taking rides in tour buses like the ones above, drivers, team members and support crew check out the Fuji Speedway course from many different perspectives while preparing for the race.
Quick History of Fuji Speedway
Toyota-owned Fuji International Speedway, located in Shizuoka Prefecture on the foothills of Mount Fuji, is a world-class circuit about 110km south of central Tokyo. It’s just a few kilometers away from Toyota’s Higashi-Fuji Technical Center, where the 1,000 hp Toyota Hybrid System-Racing in TS050 is developed and built.
Fuji Speedway has evolved since opening in 1965, when a banked oval-style section made up half its length. In 1976, Fuji hosted the first Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix. Toyota acquired the racecourse in 2000. Following a lengthy renovation that started in 2003, Fuji Speedway reopened in 2005 and hosted Formula 1 in 2007 and 2008.
For more news about Toyota motorsports visit Toyota Gazoo Racing
News source and photos courtesy Toyota Gazoo Racing Co., and Toyota Motor Corp; videos courtesy Toyota Motorsport GmbH
Story © 2018 CarNichiWa.com