Hard-earned points for Toyota Gazoo Racing

4 March 2024

Toyota Gazoo Racing took on a tough challenge in the season-opening Qatar 1812 KM and earned valuable FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) points with a determined team effort.

Drivers, engineers and mechanics worked tirelessly through the difficult Prologue test and free practice sessions to optimise the GR010 Hybrids in terms of tyres, weight and car balance around the Lusail International Circuit in the search for race performance.

Thanks to that work and a smart race strategy, the No7 GR010 Hybrid of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Nyck de Vries scored significant World Championship points for a hard-earned sixth place.

World Champions Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa, in the No8 GR010 Hybrid, battled equally hard after a tough start and finished 10th in a 19-strong Hypercar field, featuring Alpine, BMW, Cadillac, Ferrari, Isotta Fraschini, Lamborghini, Peugeot and Porsche.

The race started under the midday sun and the action was equally hot on the opening lap. Conway started on the front row but suffered oversteer going into turn one, forcing him wide and dropping the No7 down to seventh. The No8 also lost positions from 11th on the grid and Buemi ended the first lap in 14th.

With 37 cars in the field, traffic was a factor around the relatively narrow 3.36-mile Lusail International Circuit. Conway and Buemi used their experience to stay out of trouble, unlike several rivals, and started to move up the order.

Shortly before the two-hour mark, Conway handed over the No7 to de Vries while Hartley replaced Buemi. Both cars were fitted with new Michelin tyres on the left side to continue their battle to gain positions, with new right-side rubber coming at the next stop as the team explored different strategies.

A battling performance from de Vries moved the No7 into the top six before he handed over to Kobayashi after almost four hours. But a difficult stint for Hartley meant Hirakawa faced a battle to return the No8 to the top 10, and his task grew tougher when an issue with the rear left wheel cost time and positions at his next pit stop.

As the race moved into the last five hours, the starting drivers were back behind the wheel, with Conway fighting for sixth place and Buemi edging closer to the points. With just over two hours remaining, a final driver change saw de Vries and Hirakawa resume the battle under lights in the Qatari night.

As the clock counted down, the various fuel strategies played out and de Vries was in seventh entering the final lap. That became sixth when he passed the stricken No93 Peugeot in the final metres of the race. Hirakawa completed the race in 10th to make it a double points finish for the team, despite the challenging circumstances.

After missing out on an overall podium for the first time since Silverstone in 2018, Toyota Gazoo Racing are determined to achieve an instant return at the next round of the 2024 season, the 6 Hours of Imola, in Italy (21 April).

Team quotes

Kamui Kobayashi (Team Principal and driver, car No7): “Unfortunately for this first race of the season we struggled all the way through the race to find strong performance. Finishing sixth was the best we could realistically achieve today, and this isn’t what we hoped for coming here. Obviously, our car was not well suited to this circuit; it is very surprising how challenging this event has been for us. But, despite the difficulties, all team members worked very hard to score points with both cars. The drivers didn’t make any mistakes and the engineers and mechanics performed great too. We will look at everything from this race and work hard to come back stronger at Imola.”

Mike Conway (driver, car No7): “That was quite a tough race. We didn’t have the pace to fight up front, but our pace was ebbing and flowing depending on what stage in the race we were at. At some points we were more competitive, and at others less so. Going into the race we were not sure what we would take home from Qatar, but it has been pretty good in terms of points. We were a bit fortunate at the end to get sixth, which is a decent result all in all. We will keep pushing and aim for better at Imola.”

Nyck de Vries (driver, car No7): “After 10 hours of battling, it was a hard-fought result. We were lacking pace compared to the leading cars, so we have to be happy with sixth, although we definitely needed a little bit of luck to finish there because on merit the top six was probably just out of reach. We have scored good points and I think that was the best we could do today. We had to maximise the weekend and we did that.”

Sébastien Buemi (driver, car No8): “It was a difficult race for us, but we still salvaged two points. We didn’t have the performance so we just did the best we could and brought both cars to the chequered flag. Even when we cannot win, at least we still try to score points. It has been a tough week, but we will work hard and come back stronger for Imola, which is a new track for WEC. We have never been there, but I am sure it will suit our car better than here and we obviously expect to have a better result.”

Brendon Hartley (driver, car No8): “It has been a challenging day, at the end of a challenging week, particularly on our side of the garage. Neither car had the speed to fight for the podium. Nevertheless, we salvaged points on both cars, and we all fought hard for them. I am proud of all the team for the way we responded and kept fighting. We raced as hard as we could and now we will focus on fighting back at the next race.”

Ryo Hirakawa (driver, car No8): “Obviously this has been a really tough week for us here, tougher than we expected. I am really disappointed we could not compete for a better result, but everyone pushed as hard as possible, and this was the most we could achieve. We think Imola should be more suited to us in terms of track layout so I hope we will come back stronger in the next race. We have a lot of things to work on.”

Qatar 1812 KM – Result 
1st #6 Porsche Penske (Estre/Lotterer/Vanthoor) 335 laps
2nd #12 Hertz Team JOTA (Stevens/Ilott/Nato) +33.297secs
3rd #5 Porsche Penske (Campbell/Christensen/Makowiecki) +34.396secs
4th #2 Cadillac Racing (Bamber/Lynn/Bourdais) +1 lap
5th #83 AF Corse (Kubica/Shwartzman/Ye) +1 lap
6th #7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +1 lap
10th #8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +2 laps


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Hard-earned points for Toyota Gazoo Racing


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