Toyota Gazoo Racing aim to maintain their 100 per cent winning Hypercar record this week when the 2021 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) returns to Italy for the first time in nearly 30 years for the Six Hours of Monza (18 July).
The new GR010 Hybrid Hypercar has won both championship rounds so far this season, at Spa-Francorchamps and Portimao, and will now take on the high-speed challenge of Monza, a track which holds a special place in Toyota’s endurance racing history.
In 1992, Geoff Lees and Hitoshi Ogawa earned Toyota’s first World Championship sportscar victory, in the TS010 Group C car. That turned out to be the last World Championship sportscar race in Italy prior to the Monza meeting being included in this year’s calendar.
Toyota Gazoo Racing head to Monza leading both the drivers’ and manufacturersWorld Championships following an exciting start to the season. Last year’s Le Mans winners Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley, in the No8 GR010 Hybrid, lead the drivers’ standings following consecutive wins. Reigning World Champions Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López have scored podiums in both races so far in their No7 car.
While the action on track has been dramatic, one important element has been missing; due to the global pandemic, fans have not been permitted to attend WEC races since last February last year. That will change in Monza, when a limited number of spectators will be welcomed to the circuit.
The high-speed 3.5-mile (5.km) Monza track will provide ideal preparation for the Le Mans 24 Hours, with long straights followed by chicanes like those at the Circuit de la Sarthe which will host the classic race on 21-22 August this year.
Action begins at Monza with first practice on Friday afternoon (16 Jul)y, before a packed Saturday sees two further practice sessions and qualifying to determine the 37-car grid for Sunday’s race, which begins at midday (local time).
Hisatake Murata, Team President: “We are excited to race in front of fans again. It has been over a year since we could enjoy the atmosphere of a race weekend with spectators and we really miss this. The Italian fans are famous for their passion for motorsport, so Monza is a perfect place to welcome back spectators. Thank you to the organisers and the circuit for making this possible. This weekend is also an important step on our road to Le Mans. Monza is a circuit which will be a tough test for the GR010 Hybrid, with the high top speeds and hard braking zones. We are all looking forward to the challenge.”
Mike Conway (GR010 Hybrid No7): “I am happy to be going back to Monza. We were there a few years ago for the Prologue test and I really enjoyed driving the TS050 Hybrid on a high-speed track like that. I’m sure it will be the same with the GR010 Hybrid. It will be a challenge for us because it’s our first time there with the Hypercar and we need to get the set-up right, particularly under braking and over the kerbs. Hopefully we can achieve that and come out on top.”
Kamui Kobayashi (GR010 Hybrid No7): “We have never raced at Monza in WEC but I know the track well; I first raced there when I was in junior racing as a 17-year-old. So I am happy to be coming back to Italy, where I lived for a while early in my career. This race is the last one before Le Mans so it’s an important week. We have to manage everything well, find the performance and the reliability and get ourselves prepared. Hopefully we can have an exciting race in front of Italian fans because it will be great to see spectators again.”
José María López (GR010 Hybrid No7): “I am very happy to go back to Monza. I have not raced there for a long time, but I have very good memories from earlier in my career when I used to live close by. I won some races there in junior racing and I would like to win there in WEC too. It’s a perfect circuit for endurance racing and after the strong performance in Portimao we go there with high expectations. We all want to have a good weekend because it’s the last race before Le Mans.”
Sébastien Buemi (GR010 Hybrid No8): “To start the season with two wins is obviously great for our car and we hope to keep that run going in Monza. As always it will not be easy. We saw in Portimao how quick Alpine is, and Glickenhaus will have two cars in Monza so they will be stronger. I expect another close fight in Hypercar but we have worked hard to be ready for it. Le Mans is coming very quickly so we need to prepare properly and hopefully go there in a positive mood following another good team result.”
Kazuki Nakajima (GR010 Hybrid No8): “Monza is one of my favourite circuits, so I am really looking forward to going back there for the first time since 2017. It’s great to feel the high speeds on a circuit like that. I am quite interested to see how our Hypercar performs there because it is not an easy track in terms of braking, riding the kerbs and traction on the bumpy surface. It will be a big challenge but that’s helpful for our Le Mans preparations.”
Brendon Hartley (GR010 Hybrid No8): “It is so cool to be racing at the temple of speed in our new GR010 Hybrid. Monza has a great history in endurance racing and it’s great that it’s back on the WEC calendar. It will be the first time that we see the new Hypercars on long straights with similar top speeds to Le Mans so, with similar aerodynamic requirements, it will be the perfect preparation. It’s not only preparation; it’s also important we keep building points for the World Championship, so we target win number three.”