TOYOTA GAZOO Racing took its first-ever podium in the 6 Hours of Nürburgring on a challenging day for the team in the fourth round of the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).
The Nürburgring, just 90km from the team’s Cologne base, has traditionally been a difficult venue for TOYOTA and that proved to be the case again.
Nevertheless, the pole position-winning#7 TS050 HYBRID of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López earned the team’s first Nürburgring podium with third place after leading the early stages and setting the fastest lap of the race.
The #8 car of Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima suffered early technical trouble and finished fourth on a day when Porsche #2 won the race.
While Kamui led the opening stages in the #7 from pole, Sébastien began the #8 car’s fight back. The battle for the lead was enthralling, with Kamui keeping the two Porsches behind during the first hour before handing over to José María at the first pit stops.
After 80 minutes of fierce racing, the #7 dropped to third place but José fought back and kept the pressure on. At the start of his second stint, with two hours completed, he was within two seconds of the race leader.
However, as the race wore on, a change of aerodynamic performance negatively affected both cars. The cause of this will be subject to post-race analysis of the bodywork.
With little realistic prospect of a change of positions, unless misfortune would strike Porsche, the two TS050 HYBRIDs focused on completing a clean race to secure the valuable World Championship points.
Kamui took the chequered flag for the #7 car in third, earning the team’s fourth podium of the season, 1min 4.768secs behind the winner. After a fighting drive back to fourth, Kazuki finished the race for the #8 car five laps down.
That result means TOYOTA stays in the fight for the manufacturers’ World Championship, 39.5 points behind Porsche. The #8 crew lead the challenge in the drivers’ standings and are now 30 points away from the leaders.
Today’s race marked the end of the European leg of the WEC season, with the teams heading to North America next for races in Mexico City (3 September) and Austin (September 16), prior to the final three races of 2017 which take place in Asia.
José María López (TS050 HYBRID #7): “Even though it was a difficult race, we finished on the podium and that’s the first time for me in WEC. We were surprised on Saturday to get pole position after a great job from the team but we expected a hard fight today. In my second stint it was really hard with the tyres. For sure we wanted more so we will keep working to come back stronger in the next races.”