Next stop Spa for Toyota Gazoo Racing

8 May 2024

Toyota Gazoo Racing are back in action this weekend, looking to add momentum to their 2024 FIA World Endurance Championship challenge after their first victory of the season last time out in Italy, travelling to Belgium for the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.

Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Nick de Vries took the win in a thrilling 6 Hours of Imola in the No7 GR010 Hybrid, with team-mates Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa finishing fifth in the No8 car.

The team’s sequence of seven consecutive Spa wins is unprecedented in top-level endurance racing at the legendary Belgian track, which hosted its first 1,000km race – the predecessor to the modern six-hour WEC contests – in 1966. Toyota Gazoo Racing have won eight of their 11 races there and are unbeaten since 2017.

Conway and Kobayashi challenge for a hat-trick of wins, having triumphed in the last two editions of the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps. Buemi has won the race five times, including alongside Hartley in 2021, while Hirakawa and de Vries are both looking to land their first Spa WEC win.

Spa is a firm favourite among drivers and fans for its undulating, high-speed sections through the Ardennes forest. At 4.4 miles, it is the second longest circuit in WEC after Le Mans, and arguably the most spectacular thanks to corners such as the Eau Rouge-Raidillon sequence, Pouhon and Blanchimont.

As the last race before the Le Mans 24 Hours on 15-16 June, Spa is a milestone in the team’s preparation for the WEC season highlight because the flowing high-speed track is an important opportunity to fine-tune the GR010 Hybrids on a lay-out which requires similar performance attributes to the Circuit de la Sarthe at Le Mans.

Spa is also considered to be one of the team’s home races: Toyota Gazoo Racing’s technical centre is located 75 miles away in Cologne; all employees have been invited to show their support on race day, along with colleagues from Toyota’s European headquarters in Brussels

They will join the usual large crowd of fans to witness two GR010 Hybrids take on a field of 19 Hypercars from Alpine, BMW, Cadillac, Ferrari, Isotta Fraschini, Lamborghini, Peugeot and Porsche in the last competitive action before Le Mans.

Track activities begin on Thursday with two 90-minute free practice sessions before the starting grid is determined in qualifying on Friday afternoon. The green flags will wave for the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps race at 1pm local time on Saturday.

Team quotes

Kamui Kobayashi (Team Principal and driver, car No7): “This is a very important race, not just for our World Championship challenge, but also for our Le Mans preparations. To be quick at Le Mans and Spa, you need some of the same characteristics in terms of car balance and set-up, so everything we learn this week will help us in June. Spa is also a highlight of our WEC season because it’s our second home race, after Fuji Speedway. We always appreciate that our team members from Cologne come along to encourage us, and this year we have even more support because we also welcome colleagues from Toyota’s European headquarters to Spa. As well as our colleagues, we’re looking forward to the support of the fans, who will generate a fantastic atmosphere as usual. Even though we didn’t have the fastest car at Imola, we executed a perfect race and managed to win, and we will work hard for a similar performance at Spa.”

Mike Conway (Driver, car No7): “It was fantastic to win for the first time this season at Imola, and the result showed how important it is to work strongly as a team, avoid mistakes and maximise every aspect of our performance. Spa will be another challenging weekend because the competition in Hypercar is so intense, but I’m looking forward to it. I had experience of driving on wet tyres at Imola and everyone knows that the weather in Spa is unpredictable. Hopefully it will be a dry weekend but if not, we are prepared, and we’ve shown that we can use those situations to our advantage.”

Nyck de Vries (driver, car No7):“After the outstanding team performance and result at Imola, we are all very much looking forward to the race at Spa. It’s one of the best circuits in the world and it’s always a highlight of the season, also because the fans create a special atmosphere. We are all motivated to build on the win at Imola and deliver another positive result in one of our home races, especially because so many colleagues from the factory will be there to support us.”

Sébastien Buemi (driver, car No8):“Spa is my favourite circuit because it is such a special place, with all the history, as well as being a challenging, traditional-style track with fast corners and not much run-off or room for errors. You never get bored with driving there, particularly in a prototype, and I’ve been fortunate enough to win there five times before, so I have great memories. The competition will be more intense than ever, so it will not be easy, but we need to get the most from our car and from the opportunities which come our way.”

Brendon Hartley (driver, car No8): “Spa is a place I really enjoy because it’s an old-school track, with lots of changes of elevation, some high-speed sections, plus it’s very scenic and spectacular driving through the forest. The weather is often a factor too which can make for some unpredictable races. At Imola, our car was in the fight for a podium but we didn’t quite make it, so this is clearly the target in Spa when we hope to prepare ourselves for Le Mans with a strong result.”

Ryo Hirakawa (driver, car No8): “Spa is such a fun track to drive so I really look forward to this race. As a team, we’ve had some great results there over the years and we obviously hope to be strong again. It will be tough because we saw at Imola how strong some of our competitors are, but I think we are making progress. The win for car No7 was great for the whole team, and it was also encouraging to see our car No8 fighting for the podium too. We want to be stronger again in Spa and everyone in the team is working flat-out to achieve that.”


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Next stop Spa for Toyota Gazoo Racing


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