TOYOTA GAZOO Racing finished on the podium in the 6 Hours of Circuit of the Americas after a race-long challenge for victory in the sixth round of the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).
The TS050 HYBRIDs recovered from a disappointing qualifying session to perform strongly, with the #8 of Sébastien Buemi, Stéphane Sarrazin and Kazuki Nakajima finishing third, 21.680secs behind the winning Porsche #2 after 1,058km of racing.
Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López in the #7 TS050 HYBRID played their part in an exciting race on their way to fourth place as the TOYOTAs finished in the same order as they started.
When the race began under the midday sun, both cars took the fight to Porsche and at the end of the first lap Sébastien passed the #2 for second, with Mike taking third a few moments later.
Due to air temperatures of 34°C, WEC regulations required the team to change drivers at each stint so Kazuki and José María took the wheel at the first pit stops when neither car changed tyres, unlike the Porsches.
Kazuki led the race from the #7 after one hour but José, using a different compound than the sister car and suffering higher degradation, slipped to fourth despite fighting wheel to wheel over two laps with the #1 Porsche.
At the next round of pit stops, when Stéphane and Kamui took over, new tyres of the same compound were fitted to both cars which handed the lead back to Porsche, courtesy of their shorter fuel-only pit stops. Kamui’s impressive stint saw him pass Stéphane for third and eliminate the gap to Porsche #2.
On the three-hour mark, after another driver change and refuelling stop for both cars, a 10-minute safety car period for barrier repairs brought all four LMP1 cars together at the front, with Mike in second and Sébastien third.
When the race re-started the TS050 HYBRIDs, on used tyres, were under attack from the #2 Porsche on new rubber. Mike dropped to fourth while Sébastien temporarily defended his second place until the next pit stops when the #8 car slipped to third.
With two hours still to go the drivers kept the pressure on Porsche, despite the uncomfortable heat, but ultimately the leaders proved just out of reach with Kazuki and Kamui taking the chequered flag in third and fourth respectively.
Kamui brought the #7 car home 13.070secs behind the sister car, but was penalised a further 10 seconds for contact with the #24 LMP2 car late in the race.
Despite missing out on a third victory of the season, the team now prepares for its home race at Fuji Speedway on 13 October with renewed confidence.
José María López (TS050 HYBRID #7): “I have mixed feelings because I am happy that we put up a good fight and I enjoyed my battle with Porsche #1; we didn’t expect that. On the other side, fourth is not why we go racing; we are all here to win. But we should see the positive. We didn’t give up, we came back stronger after qualifying and I hope in the next race we can be even stronger.”