Podium start for TOYOTA RACING

2015 World Endurance Championship - Round 1

TOYOTA Racing secured its first podium result of the new World Endurance Championship (WEC) at Silverstone on Sunday, finishing just 14 seconds from victory after six exhilarating hours of racing.Reigning World Champions Anthony Davidson and Sébastien Buemi, along with team-mate Kazuki Nakajima, ensured the #1 TS040 HYBRID race car was in the thick of the action throughout the 6 Hours of Silverstone, and firmly in the victory hunt until the bitter end.

“It was a difficult race for us,” said Sébastien, “but we pushed really hard from the start. We tried a few things, like double stinting the tyres, which shows we were pushing to the maximum. At the end, I tried to catch the Porsche but couldn’t quite manage with older tyres.”

45,000 spectators flocked to the famous British track during the 2015 season-opening round to witness a thrilling multi-car battle for victory. The #2 TS040 HYBRID, piloted by Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin and Mike Conway, finished just off the podium in fourth place, to ensure both TOYOTA Racing cars scored 27 manufacturer points.

Strategy played a key role in Sunday’s race with all manufacturer teams adopting different tactics to fight for the victory. A breathless opening half an hour saw some frenetic wheel to wheel racing as the Porsches took an early lead with the TOYOTA TS040 HYBRIDs fending off their Audi counterparts.

Running third (#1 with Sébastien) and sixth (#2 with Alex) early on, the team reacted to a full course yellow, which demands that all cars drive at a maximum 80km/h, pitting for tyres and fuel. Another yellow 30 minutes later saw the #2 car pit again for extra fuel, putting it on a different strategy.

Misfortune for two rival cars saw the two TOYOTA Racing cars elevated to third and fourth ahead of the first driver changes at the quarter distance mark.

Anthony took control of the #1 car and wasted no time hunting down the leaders. He took the overall lead of the race at the subsequent round of pit stops, opting to stay on the same Michelin rubber to save time during his stop. The two TOYOTA TS040 HYBRIDS were running 1-2 at that stage of the race with Anthony’s British compatriot Mike Conway at the helm of the #2 car.

Anthony relinquished the lead of the race by the halfway point of the race, while Mike dropped to fourth after a bollard got trapped under the front of his car, hampering his progress.

“It was a tough race,” said Mike. “I picked up a bollard on the front of the car and it wrecked my first stint. I lost a lot of downforce and it was unpredictable. Everything returned to normal at the pit stop and I pushed to regain some time. At that point, fourth was the best we could do, so we brought it home and got some good points.”

Kazuki Nakajima, starting his first full WEC campaign for TOYOTA Racing this year, took over from Anthony in the #1 car while Stéphane Sarrazin jumped into the #2. With different tyre strategies, the race was heating up with the #1 car firmly in the hunt for second place and the #2 car in fourth place.

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As the race entered its final phase, script writers could not have written the thrilling finale that was set to play out in front of the Silverstone crowd. Sébastien and Alex returned to their respective TS040 HYBRIDs for the final stints as the #1 car was chasing hard for second place, hunting down the Porsche that was, in turn, cutting the gap to the leading Audi. Three manufacturers, three strategies and three different LMP1 cars were all pushing for the win.

Ultimately, the TOYOTA Racing #1 car fell short in the closing laps but took a hard fought podium, the team’s fourth in succession at Silverstone. The result continued a run of WEC podiums for the team that dates back to the 6 Hours of Sao Paulo in August 2013, and gets TOYOTA Racing’s title defence underway with a fine podium result.

“It was a very close and tough race in LMP1,” said #1 driver Kazuki Nakajima. “The gaps were very close and we had to push to the maximum throughout the six hours. A podium is a decent result. We expected it to be hard but we did our job well and didn’t make any mistakes. It was a solid start.”

TOYOTA Racing’s Team President, Toshio Sato summarised: “I was very impressed to see the exciting battle between three LMP1 manufacturers. The lead three cars, one from each manufacturer, were running very close all the way to the end. It was really a six hour sprint race, which is great for the fans. Congratulations to Audi, who performed very well today. We pushed as hard as we could and it was close. It would have been nice to win, of course, but our competition has improved a lot over the winter and now we have a real fight. We are ready for this challenge and we will come back stronger in Spa, I’m sure.”

The second round of the World Endurance Championship takes place at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium on 2 May.

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