TOYOTA GAZOO Racing braves the rain in Shanghai

2015 World Endurance Championship - Round 7

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing fought through persistent rain in the Six Hours of Shanghai at the weekend to claim another two-car top-six finish as the 2015 World Endurance Championship approaches its conclusion.

The two TS040 HYBRID race cars battled valiantly but ultimately came away with fifth place for the #2 car of Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin and Mike Conway and sixth for the #1 car of 2014 World Champions Anthony Davidson and Sébastien Buemi, alongside Kazuki Nakajima.

The team has a strong record at China’s Shanghai International Circuit, winning the race in 2012 and 2014, with only a mechanical problem denying victory in 2013.

The race weekend for this year’s round began with a busy practice day, Thursday’s rain giving way to a dry track for the duration of Friday. Both TS040 HYBRIDs completed trouble-free 90-minute sessions, finishing fifth and sixth as the team worked to find the best set-up for the 5.451km track.

I am happy with today’s sessions,” said Sébastien at the end of second practice. “We did a lot of laps which is positive.” Mike agreed: “We did a lot of running, which means we have plenty of data to work with. I expect it will be tough in qualifying but we will keep fighting.


Saturday’s qualifying session saw the World Champions unable to match the pace of their competitors. Despite shaving 1.626secs off last year’s fastest qualifying lap, both cars were behind their rivals throughout.

Sébastien, who was celebrating his 27th birthday, began in the #1 car while Alex, 2012 race winner, was in the #2. In dry conditions, Sébastien clocked a single flying lap before passing the car to Anthony in fifth. Alex decided to run an additional lap, improving his time before passing to Mike in sixth.

A brief reversal occurred when Anthony lost grip but at the flag it was the #1 in fifth by 0.186s and their third row grid start for the race was confirmed. “We are where we expected to be,” said Anthony. “We pushed as hard as we could – we will see where we can be tomorrow.” The #2 crew realised it could not realistically challenge and used the time otherwise: “We decided to do a tyre test,” explained Alex, “to get some data for tomorrow.”

Race day itself was hit with rain, and conditions required a safety car start. Following some position swapping on the first racing lap, Anthony established the #1 in fifth, ahead of Mike in the #2.

It continued in this order until a slow puncture at around 90 minutes forced Anthony to pit a few laps into his second stint. This put Alex in the #2 in fifth, ahead of Kazuki in the #1.


The track was made treacherous by heavier rain and took its toll on participants. Alex spun in the #2 in the second hour of racing, allowing Kazuki to temporarily reclaim fifth in the #1 before he span out himself and ended up in the gravel. The car was recovered and returned still in sixth spot.

It was a difficult day for me,” admitted Kazuki. “I made a mistake and lost time in the gravel. I feel sorry for the team, especially my car crew. I will learn from this mistake and push again for the next race.

The track began to dry in the second half of the race so the #1 took a chance in being the first to switch to hybrid intermediate tyres. However, conditions were still too slippery.

In the final two hours, Alex brought the #2 in for hybrid intermediates and Stéphane resumed in fifth. Lap times fell as the track continued to dry, with Stéphane switching to slick tyres in the last hour. Sébastien was a lap further behind in sixth, setting lap times close to the leaders. 

Ultimately, the #2 had a sufficient gap. Stéphane took the flag in fifth and Sébastien brought the #1 home in sixth, four and five laps respectively behind the winning #17 Porsche. “There is nothing special to say about this race,” said Stéphane, who celebrated his 40th birthday the day after the race. “At least we won the competition between the TOYOTAs!” 

This has been a disappointing day,” said Team President Toshio Sato. “Track conditions never quite worked out for us. We had a few incidents, including some bad luck with the slow puncture for the #1. The weather was very difficult for everyone so thanks to the team for a professional job. We fought hard but unfortunately fifth and sixth were the best we could manage.


The Six Hours of Shanghai result confirmed that Porsche succeeds TOYOTA to become the 2015 manufacturers’ World Champions. “We have been proud to wear the #1 this year,” concluded Toshio Sato, “but Porsche are worthy champions. We will give them more of a fight next year.

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