Strong home support for Toyota in hard-fought Six hours of Fuji

2015 World Endurance Championship - Round 6

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing enjoyed improved pace against its competitors in the Six Hours of Fuji race last weekend but ultimately finished its home event in fifth and sixth positions at the chequered flag.

The sixth round of the 2015 World Endurance Championship was held against the stunning backdrop of Mount Fuji and, with the support of thousands of passionate Japanese fans and employees from TOYOTA Motor Corporation, the team received a warm welcome for the latest WEC race.

Fuji Speedway is located just 20km from the Higashi-Fuji Technical Centre and is very much a home event for TOYOTA. The circuit has a rich motorsport heritage and has seen over 40 major endurance races since its inaugural 1967 event, which was won by a TOYOTA 2000GT.

This year’s race weekend got off to a strong start with a productive day of free practice in warm and sunny conditions, displaying the circuit off in its best light. For TOYOTA, it was the first time that the team showed off the coveted #1 plate on home soil since winning both World Championships last season.

With one of the longest main straights in motor racing, the focus for practice was finding the correct set up for the TS040 HYBRID race cars.


It was quite an encouraging day in terms of how we worked through the programme,” explained #1 driver Anthony Davidson. “We ended up with a fairly decent balance on the car.”

Mike Conway in the #2 car added, “The two sessions were all about working on the balance of the car and trying to build on what we learned in Austin. With the possibility of rain at the weekend, we need to be ready for any conditions.

Mike’s words were to be prophetic for the race itself but qualifying day started in dry conditions. TOYOTA, unbeaten at Fuji Speedway since WEC returned to the Japanese venue in 2012, was determined to put up a strong fight for the Japanese fans.

A trouble-free morning practice built nicely to the 20-minute qualifying session with home hero Kazuki Nakajima first at the wheel of the #1 car and Stéphane Sarrazin in the #2. Both had clean laps before handing over to Sébastien Buemi and Mike Conway respectively. With grid positions determined by an average of each driver’s fastest lap, the TS040 HYBRIDs locked out the third row of the grid for Sunday’s race.

We did the best job we could,” said Sébastien. “In all honesty, we were a bit away from where we hoped to be; we looked closer in practice. We will stay positive and see what the weather brings us tomorrow.”


Sunday, as predicted, got underway in wet conditions but with a fantastic crowd flocking to Fuji to support the team. TOYOTA flags were waving while a special fan zone proved popular and, with a variety of historic TOYOTA race cars on show, set the scene for the race.

The race started under the safety car due to the wet conditions, remaining out for the opening 40 minutes. Once the track improved, the safety car pitted and the Six Hours of Fuji was underway proper.

Both TS040 HYBRIDs enjoyed a spirited start to the race with the #1 car at the hands of Kazuki, taking third place and superbly fending off the #17 Porsche. “I had a fun fight early in the race,” said Kazuki about his first-hour battle, which was one of the race’s highlights. “I stayed ahead until my pit stop; it was exciting.” Alex also started well, holding fourth before dropping back as the race continued.

Despite the initially competitive performance of the two TS040 HYBRIDs, successive incidents prevented the drivers from performing to their full ability.

The #1 received a drive-through penalty that relegated it to fifth position, while the #2 was forced to spend a lengthy period in the garage following damage sustained after an impact with a GT car. The #2 crew fought back strongly from 19th, recovering to sixth at the chequered flag.

We had a tough time behind the wheel but we had some fun as well,” said Anthony, while his team-mate Sébastien was already looking to the future. “I hope we come back and get the winners’ trophy as we did the previous three seasons,” he said.


Regardless of the result, it was a special occasion for TOYOTA and the fans, and the support was highly appreciated by the team and drivers. “I send my gratitude to the fans,” said Alex. “They are the best fans you can imagine. After 20 years of professional motor racing I still enjoy coming back to meet them.”

The weather conditions gave us a chance to show improved performance,” said Team President Toshio Sato. “We were in a much stronger position than at recent races.” He also echoed the drivers’ appreciation of TOYOTA’s loyal fan-base: “Thank you to all the fans that supported this week, also to our colleagues who have given so much support.”

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing now looks to Shanghai, where on 1 November it will contest the seventh round of the 2015 FIA WEC calendar before continuing on to the season conclusion three weeks later at Bahrain.

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