The GAZOO Racing (GR) team maintained its perfect record in the 2019-2020 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season with a one-two victory on home ground in the 6 Hours of Fuji recently.
The reigning World Champions won at Fuji Speedway for the seventh time in eight years, with the No. 8 TS050 Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) driven by Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley earning victory from pole position. Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, and José María López finished second in the No. 7 TS050 HEV, leaving both crews tied for first place in the drivers’ championship, while the GR team stretched its lead in the manufacturer’s championship by 35 points.
The newly-introduced Success Handicap system was implemented for the first time during the event, which imposes lap time penalties on LMP1 vehicles based on their current standing in the championship leaderboard. The impact of the regulations became apparent during the opening laps. With Buemi at the wheel, the No. 8 TS050 HEV carried a one second-per-lap handicap, successfully holding off a strong challenge to lead from the start. Meanwhile, Kobayashi faced a 1.4 seconds lap-time penalty in the No. 7 TS050 HEV, resulting in an exciting fight for second position.
After taking their places in the top two positions, the GR TS050 HEVs steadily stretched their advantage. Their lead was further strengthened by the fastest pit work in the field, although the No. 7 TS050 HEV was unable to mount a challenge for first place throughout the race due to the 0.4 seconds-per-lap difference in success handicap.
The gap remained stable, with the No. 8 TS050 HEV taking the chequered flag in the TS050 HEVs’ final race in Japan, 33.955secs ahead of the No. 7 TS050 HEV. The result marked Buemi’s 16th outright WEC victory, extending his series record, and the fourth time Nakajima has won his home race. Meanwhile, Hartley stood on the top of the podium for the first time as a GAZOO Racing driver.
“I would like to congratulate the team on their brilliant performance. We are thrilled to achieve our second perfect result of the season, especially here at our home circuit,” said Yugo Miyamoto, Chief Representative, Middle East and Central Asia Representative Office, Toyota Motor Corporation. “The newly implemented handicap system imposes some regulations on our vehicles, but the team still managed to achieve an outstanding one-two victory with the superior performance of the Toyota TS050 HEV.”
“Toyota has been pioneering hybrid electric technology for more than 20 years. Through this journey, we have been continuously developing and testing our machines under extremely challenging road conditions, including racing events such as WEC. These events provide us with learnings and invaluable insights that inspire our efforts to create environmentally friendly vehicles that are engaging and fun to drive. We extend our gratitude to our loyal fans for their constant encouragement, and look forward to their support during this promising season,” Miyamoto added.
Sébastien Buemi, Driver of the No. 8 TS050 HEV, said: “I am really pleased with the race and the results. We executed a clean race and managed the conditions well, so thanks a lot to the team for their hard work. Of course, it's even more important to win this race because we have a lot of Japanese fans supporting us and some very important guests, so everyone is very happy. Now we're equal on points in the championship with the No. 7 guys, so Shanghai is going to be an interesting weekend.”
Kazuki Nakajima, Driver of the No. 8 TS050 HEV, added: “It's great to win again here in Fuji in front of our home fans; congratulations to everyone in the team. It was important to us to get a one-two in the last Japanese race for the TS050 HYBRID because we have experienced so many emotions with this vehicle. It's like an old friend, so we had to give it a last win at home. It was a tough race in changing conditions but we kept a strong pace and were quick on the intermediate tires. We controlled the race and managed the traffic well, so I am very happy.”
Over the years, Toyota has been participating in many different forms of motorsports, including Formula One, the World Endurance Championship (WEC), and the Nürburgring 24 Hours endurance race. Toyota’s participation in these events was overseen by separate entities within the company until April 2015, when Toyota established GAZOO Racing (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.
Following the team's second one-two finish of the season, the success handicap on both vehicles will be increased for the next race, the 4 Hours of Shanghai on 10 November. The lap time penalty will be identical for both TS050 HYBRIDs, as they now have the same number of World Championship points.
· No. 8 TS050 Hybrid Electric Vehicle (Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima, and Brendon Hartley)
o Position: 1st
o No. of Laps: 232
o Best Lap: 1’26.657
· No. 7 TS050 Hybrid Electric Vehicle (Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, and José María López)
o Position: 2nd
o No. of Laps: 232
o Best Lap: 1’27.353
 For more information on the Success Handicap system, please visit this link.