Toyota Gazoo Racing took their third win of the 2019-2020 FIA World Endurance Championship season in the 8 Hours of Bahrain on Saturday (14 December). The two Toyota TS050 Hybrids came home first and second, thanks to a good race strategy, fast pit stops and impressive reliability over the 864-mile race distance, overcoming a severe success handicap that included a per-lap time penalty and restrictions on hybrid power and fuel use.
Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López took a second season win in the No7 car, moving them back into the lead in the drivers’ championship. The sister No8 car of Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley finished second to complete the team’s third one-two result from four races.
“We pushed as hard as we could all day and got a result which we weren’t expecting at the start of the week,” said Conway. “That’s thanks to a great job by everyone; my team-mates and my team. We struggled earlier in the week but together as a team we got the car dialled in.”
Drama at the start saw a collision between the No5 Ginetta and the pole-sitting No1 Rebellion car, with Buemi’s Toyota also damaged in incident. As a result, he dropped from third to 10th, while Conway moved up from fourth to take the race lead.
Following a safety car period, the No8 Toyota was back up to third, while Conway extended his lead prior to the first fuel stop. Although the No1 Rebellion began to close the gap to the Toyotas, its challenge was curtailed by lengthy spell in the pits to tackle a technical problem.
With both Ginetta LMP1 cars retiring from the race, Toyota Gazoo Racing were able to consolidate their position. López took the chequered flag after 257 laps to give him and his crew-mates an eight-point championship advantage over the No8 car trio. In the teams’ title race, Toyota Gazoo Racing lead by 41 points from Rebellion.
The WEC calendar will resume in Austin, Texas, on 23 February for the 6 Hours of the Circuit of the Americas, returning after a break of two years. This will form a double-header in the USA with the 1,000 miles of Sebring, on 20 March.
Rookie test session
The day after the Bahrain race brought an official WEC rookie test session, during which three drivers were able to take the wheel of the TS050 Hybrid.
Toyota Gazoo Racing’s test and reserve driver Thomas Laurent, who took part in the last rookie test in 2017, completed 34 laps. The previous day he had finished fifth in the Bahrain race, driving a Signatech Alpine in the LMP2 category.
Toyota Gazoo Racing WEC Challenge driver Kenta Yamashita took his seat in the TS050 for the first time and drove 44 laps. He had also taken part in the previous day’s race, with an eighth place finish in an LMP2 High Class Racing car.
Completing a trio of up-and-coming LMP2 competitors was Nyck de Vries, who was sixth in class in his Racing Team Nederland car on Saturday. Like Yamashita, de Vries warmed up for the test with a simulator session and seat fitting at the Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Cologne base on Monday, preparing the 24-year-old Dutchman for 43 laps.