Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Kazuki Nakajima says “to win five times in a season is amazing”, after the LMP1 #8 crew claimed victory in the World Endurance Championship finale at the Bahrain Six Hours.
Nakajima and team-mates Sebastien Buemi and Anthony Davidson were relatively untroubled in the TS050 HYBRID, as the sister #7 Toyota and both Porsche 919 Hybrid’s ran into trouble during the race at the Sakhir International Circuit.
Victory was Toyota’s 16th in 48 WEC races, and the first time in sportscar racing since 1990, that a crew has won five races in a season.
After a mid-race collision for the sister #7 car, the #8 crew were able to ease to victory, a lap ahead of the Porsche 919 of the world champions, Brendon Hartley, Earl Bamber and Timo Bernhard.
Nakajima said: “That was a fantastic way to end the season. We had a very strong car and all of our crew did a great job; they deserve this victory.
“It is nice to finish the year with a strong and consistent race.”
Echoing his thoughts, Buemi, who was at the wheel at both the start and the chequered flag, and Davidson paid tribute to the package that Toyota had delivered.
Davidson, who finished third in the championship as he missed the United States Six Hours, said: “All three drivers, plus the engineers and pit crew, deserve credit for this.
“Everyone did a perfect job this weekend; we hit the ground running and got the tyre choice just right, so a big thanks to the team.”
#7 car penalised for GT collision
While the #8 was untroubled at the head of the field, the same could not be said for #7 crew of Mike Conway, Jose Maria Lopez and Kamui Kobayashi.
As differing strategies between the two Toyota cars were playing out, when Kobayashi turned into Turn 1 in the fourth hour of the race, he made contact with the #92 Porsche GT, causing a rear puncture and bodywork damage to the car.
After limping back to the pits, the mechanics were able to fix the TS050 HYBRID and return it to the track.
However, two laps and six minutes were lost, which demoted the #7 car to fourth overall, and a drive through penalty was issued to the car for causing the collision, which Conway served as he brought the car home.
Kobayashi, at the wheel at the time of the incident said: ““It was a pity to have the contact with the Porsche GT. I thought I had already got past him but we got the drive through so it was probably my fault.
“We always try to avoid contact so it’s disappointing for that to happen when we were in good shape. I wanted to finish the season in a better way.”
The Japanese racer confirmed that he had been to apologise to the #92 crew and his team-mates did not apportion blame to him for the incident.
Lopez said: “It’s a pity what happened to Kamui; I know what it feels like but that can happen in endurance racing”, while Conway alluded to the strategic battle between the two cars that was lost, as well as a one-two finish, but was pleased with another win for the team.
Toyota thank Porsche
The #8 crew’s third win in a row, after Shanghai and Fuji, cemented their already confirmed second place in the championship and after the race, Toyota was quick to thank Porsche for the competition between the two.
Akio Toyoda, president of the Toyota Motor corporation said: “As we went up against Porsche, all our team members, including me, had the same thought in our hearts: “we hate to lose!”
“But, at the root of that, were feelings we harboured of respect and gratitude toward our rival.
“To Porsche, please let me once again offer my congratulations. Although we experienced our share of regret this year, if this final race leaves Porsche feeling it would like another chance to take on TOYOTA, our team would be able to end the season with a bit of pride.
“To all those at Porsche, by all means, someday, on some road, for our mutual making of ever-better cars, please let us compete with you again.”
Porsche’s withdrawal from LMP1 leaves Toyota as the sole manufacturer outfit in the top division of the WEC heading into the 2018 season.