GAZOO Racing (GR) earned a double podium finish currently in round 5 of the 2019-2020 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) at the six-hour Lone Star Le Mans race in Austin, Texas. An excellent performance in the No. 8 TS050 Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) noticed Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima, and Brendon Hartley claim 2nd place overall and close the gap at the top of the drivers’ World Championship leaderboard.
Fellow GR crew members Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López had no realistic expectations of challenging their LMP1 rivals due to their most success handicap accumulated during last rounds*, but completed a constant race to earn third place in the No. 7 TS050 HEV and hold a five-point lead in the drivers’ championship. The result places the GR team 33 points in advance in the manufacturers’ championship with just three races remaining this season.
The race started under grey skies and with a robust wind as the No. 7 TS050 HEV lined up second in the rolling start with López behind the wheel, one place ahead of Buemi in the No. 8 TS050 HEV. The two vehicles swapped positions throughout the opening lap as the impact of the distinctive success handicaps became immediately apparent. Buemi then pushed hard to remain within striking distance of first place. When he pitted to hand over to Hartley at the 90-minute mark, the second-placed No. 8 TS050 HEV was around half a minute adrift. López, a further 40 seconds behind in third, brought the No. 7 TS050 HEV into the pits quickly after for Conway’s stint.
A robust drive from Hartley and quick work in the pits reduced the deficit to about 20 seconds, retaining the pressure on the race leader. After a fuel stop, Hartley, who has formerly won three times in Austin, persisted to set impressive lap times and hold the No. 8 TS050 HEV’s challenge alive. Soon after half distance, the next round of driver changes noticed Nakajima take over to continue the pursuit, while Kobayashi took the wheel of the third-placed No. 7 TS050 HEV.
With a huge success handicap to overcome, the No. 8 TS050 HEV had little possibility to close the gap however Nakajima pushed to minimize the time loss before Hartley’s last 75-minute stint. Kobayashi handed over the No. 7 TS050 HEV to López for the run to the flag shortly after.
Hartley completed in second place to equal Toyota’s best result at the Circuit of the Americas, with López finishing the podium two laps adrift. The two TS050 HEVs will continue to be in the United States prior to the next round of the season, the 1,000 Miles of Sebring. The final flyaway race of the season will take place in Florida on 20 March, before the WEC returns to Europe and its historic fixtures at Spa and Le Mans.
“We are delighted to gain more essential points and maintain our lead at this crucial stage of the season – congratulations to the whole crew on their excellent performance,” commented Kei Fujita, Chief Representative, Middle East and Central Asia Representative Office, Toyota Motor Corporation. “Our participation in motorsports is not just about winning; by pushing our vehicles to the limit, we improve a deeper perception of their skills and are in a position to fine-tune our manufacturing models to create ‘ever-better’ cars that are exciting to drive and capture the pleasure of motoring. I’d like to thank everyone who came out and supported us in Texas and we look forward to providing all of our fans with more thrills in the upcoming races.”
Brendon Hartley, Driver of the No. 8 TS050 HEV, said: “We had a good race, with no errors from any of the drivers, some nice stints and robust pit stops. We knew that was needed to have any chance of victory, but our competitors also delivered a flawless race. I had a fun time slicing via the traffic, and the vehicle felt amazing on this track but it’s a pity we didn’t have more wheel-to-wheel fights.”
José María López, Driver of the No. 7 TS050 HEV, added: “To arrive this weekend knowing that on paper we will be the slowest LMP1 vehicle was not easy, but we kept focused to rating as many factors as possible. We constantly desire to win, but third was the best we could get. There have been a number of positives from the race. I felt very comfortable in the vehicle and had some good laps, so I am pleased with my performance and we still lead the World Championship.”
Over the years, Toyota has been taking part 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 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 humans build the cars,’ GR highlights the role of motorsports as a fundamental pillar of Toyota’s dedication to making ‘ever-better’ cars. Harnessing years of experience received under the extreme conditions of a number of motorsports events, GR aims to forge new technologies and solutions that bring the freedom, adventure, and pleasure of driving to everyone.