One-Two Victory for Toyota at 2018 FIA World Endurance Championship
Toyota has started the 2018 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season with a one-two victory in the Total 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps. Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima won the race for the second successive year in the #8 TS050 Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) they share with newcomer Fernando Alonso, who enjoyed victory at Spa for the first time since an International Formula 3000 triumph 18 years ago.
The #7 TS050 Hybrid Electric Vehicle of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, and José María López completed a remarkable comeback by finishing second, just 1.444 seconds behind, despite starting one lap down from the pit lane due to a qualifying penalty.
The result marks Toyota’s 17th win from 49 WEC races and its third at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. Toyota, therefore, leads both the teams’ and drivers’ World Championships going into the Le Mans 24 Hours on 16 and 17 June.
“We are very proud of our teams’ performance in the 2018 WEC at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. Securing the top two positions in this highly competitive race proves the efficiency and performance of our Hybrid Electric vehicles as part of Toyota’s mission to make ever-better cars,” said Yugo Miyamoto, Chief Representative, Middle East and North Africa Representative Office, ToyotaMotorCorporation. “Toyota has been pioneering hybrid electric technology for more than 20 years delivering not only great fuel efficiency and low carbon emissions but also an engaging driving experience, and seamless fun and exhilaration for the driver. We appreciate and thank our fans for their continuous support and look forward to stepping up the excitement levels in the races to come.”
Hisatake Murata, Team President, said: “I am very pleased with our performance during the week of the race. To get a one-two after the problem we faced required a big team effort. I am proud of everyone for their good work. The atmosphere during the weekend of the race has been fantastic, so I would like to thank the many fans who visited Spa, including a lot of colleagues from our home in Cologne. I hope they enjoyed the first race of the season. It’s a great result to start the season, but this is only a small step towards our big target; the Le Mans 24 Hours. We have identified areas to improve, and I’m sure our rivals have too, so we will be working flat-out in the next weeks to be ready for a close fight at Le Mans.”
Following six years of competition with hybrid vehicles from fellow manufacturers in Le Mans Prototype 1 (LMP1), this year Toyota takes on a field of eight private, non-hybrid vehicles that benefit from the new regulations for this season, strengthening them with 49% more fuel energy per lap, 37.5% more fuel flow, and 45 kg lighter weight compared with Toyota HEVs. To compete under those conditions, Toyota needs to demonstrate again the development progress of its Hybrid Electric powertrain that has seen a 35% reduction in fuel consumption at Le Mans since 2012.
The race began under blue skies, with Sébastien Buemi making a clean getaway from pole position in the #8 car and gradually extending his advantage over the competitors. Meanwhile, Mike Conway took the #7 car to sixth position by the time of the first pit stops. By then, Buemi had extended his lead to over 30 seconds. However, this evaporated shortly after the hour mark due to an appearance from the safety car.
During the resulting 30-minute delay, Kamui Kobayashi replaced Mike Conway in the #7 car while Fernando Alonso took over the #8 for his first WEC race laps. His first task when the race resumed was to defend the lead from competitors, which he did via a spectacular passing move on several GT cars on the Kemmel Straight.
Fernando’s stint was interrupted by a full-course yellow, but he took advantage when the track was green and built a substantial lead, before handing over to Kazuki Nakajima just before half distance. The #8 car made an immediate return to pit lane to adjust Nakajima’s seat belts and lost more time with a harmless spin at turn one.
Meanwhile, the #7 car was continuing its impressive progress through the field and started the second half of the race in second position, around a minute behind the leading #8 car when José María López took over from Kamui Kobayashi at the next pit stop.
The two TS050 Hybrid Electric Vehicles tightened their grip on the race as the last hour approached, with Fernando Alonso preparing to take the #8 car to the chequered flag with a lead of around one minute over the #7 car, with Mike Conway at the wheel. However, another safety car closed the gap to just six seconds with 50 minutes remaining.
Fernando Alonso and Mike Conway stayed at the wheel through a final fuel stop with 25 minutes to go, after which the team chose to hold positions and avoid any unnecessary risks after over 1,100 km of flat-out racing.
- TS050 Hybrid Electric Vehicle #8 (Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima, and Fernando Alonso)
- Position: 1st
- No. of Laps: 163
- Best Lap: 1'57.805
- TS050 Hybrid Electric Vehicle #7 (Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, and José María López)
- Position: 2nd
- No. of Laps: 163
- Best Lap: 1'57.442
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