Victory for Toyota Gazoo Racing in the 6 Hours of Portimão

17 April 2023

Toyota Gazoo Racing maintained their winning start to the 2023 FIA World Endurance Championship with victory in a dramatic 6 Hours of Portimão yesterday (16 April).

Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa, the reigning World Champions, delivered a faultless performance in Portugal, dominating the race and winning by a lap from the No50 Ferrari and the No6 Porsche.

There were contrasting emotions for Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López in the No7 GR010 Hybrid. The winners of the season-opener at Sebring four weeks ago finished ninth this time out, after losing 11 minutes when race officials ordered a mandatory sensor to be replaced.

The team have extended their World Championship advantage to 18 points over Ferrari, with five rounds remaining. Buemi, Hartley and Hirakawa move to the top of the driver’s standings, holding an 11-point lead over the No50 Ferrari crew. Conway, Kobayashi and López are two points further back in third.

A close race between the GR010 Hybrids began from the start. At the first corner, Conway squeezed ahead of pole-sitting Buemi, who dropped to third when the No51 Ferrari also made it through. Buemi had his revenge with a brave overtake on lap four to reclaim second place.

Conway led by five seconds at that point but soon came across lapped traffic, giving Buemi the chance to gradually reduced the gap. The two Toyotas swapped positions on lap 33, shortly before the first round of pit stops, which saw the No8 maintain its lead.

The race took a dramatic turn after 80 minutes when the team were instructed to change a rear-left driveshaft sensor on the No7 car. According to Hypercar regulations, performance is monitored by standardised torque sensors on the driveshafts, which must function at all times. Mechanics changed the complete rear-left corner of the car in an impressive 11 minutes, allowing López to resume the race in 34th, seven laps down but still with hope of scoring points.

At this point, Buemi held a half-minute lead over the No50 Ferrari which he maintained through to the two-hour mark, when he handed over to Hirakawa, who extended the advantage by half distance, and the next round of pit stops. Hartley took over the lead with two hours remaining while Kobayashi moved the No7 car back into the Hypercar points.

Hartley kept up the pace at the front and lapped the second-placed Ferrari late in the fifth hour, earning a valuable cushion that proved timely when a safety car period compressed the field.

When racing resumed after a 12-minute pause, Hartley immediately made his final pit stop for fuel without losing the lead and safely navigated the closing stages to take the chequered flag after 222 laps for the team’s 41st win in its 78th WEC race. Conway, who set the fastest lap of the race in the early stages, completed the last stint in the No7 car.

The WEC season resumes in two weeks with the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps on Saturday 29 April, the final round before the centenary edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours on 10-11 June.

Team quotes

Kamui Kobayashi (Team Principal and driver, car No7): “Overall it is great for car No8 to win the race. They did an amazing job, with no mistakes so they deserved this win. It was unfortunate for car No7 because after spending that time in the garage they had no chance to get a strong result. Thank you to both car crews for their great work to change the parts in just 11 minutes; I was really proud to see this strong team effort. The car felt good all through the race, we just didn’t have the luck today. So, we need to get ready for the next one and keep working hard. Spa is only a few days away and this is an important race for all of us to prepare for Le Mans. We will put today’s misfortune behind us and focus on coming back even stronger, because we know the competition is closing the gap.”

Mike Conway (driver, car No7): “Unfortunately it was a tough day with an issue which put us out of contention. We came back and at least scored a couple of points but it was a disappointing outcome. Congratulations to everyone on car No8. They drove a great race and deservedly got the win, which is nice for the team. It’s a good day for one side of the garage and a bad one for the other but we will come back fighting in Spa, and Le Mans is coming up fast.”

José María López (driver, car No7): “It was looking very good for car No7 and for the team to repeat the one-two from Sebring but unfortunately we had a problem. That was really unlucky and it put us out of the picture. But we never stopped fighting and at least came back for a couple of points; you never know how that might affect the World Championship later in the season. Looking at the bigger picture, it is a good result for the team and congratulations to car No8; they drove a great race.”

Sébastien Buemi (driver, car No8): “My team-mates and the whole crew did a brilliant job. I feel sorry for car No7 with this small issue which took away their chances. It would have been another tough fight, like in Sebring. We came very close to winning there but we made it today, so it is a very good feeling. We are continuing to work hard, and we’ll try to come back even stronger in Spa. The competition keeps improving so we need to take as many points as we can when we have the opportunity. I’m happy to win again and we’re pushing to keep that momentum.”

Brendon Hartley (driver, car No8): “I am really happy. It was an awesome weekend right from the start of practice. It was a great race, and everything went perfectly; no mistakes by the drivers or on pit stops, we had the right strategy and the car was faultless. It was nice to drive from start to finish, so a massive thanks to the team. I feel proud of their great work over the first two races. We have maximised our performance using all the experience we gained over the years because the competition is getting strong. I feel for car No7. They were pushing us hard and I am sure it would have been another close finish between us as it usually is.”

Ryo Hirakawa (driver, car No8): “The team did a perfect job, and I am very happy with this win today. Our car felt good, and it was very satisfying to win for the first time this season after missing it in Sebring by two seconds. When I started my stint, we were already leading but I managed to create a bigger gap over the Ferrari to make it more secure. It was not easy to manage the race on a short track like this with the traffic. I had to stay sharp so I am pretty happy with my performance. I feel bad for car No7, which had been competitive all weekend. Spa is coming very soon, and we will try to come back even stronger as a team.”

6 Hours of Portimão – Result

1     ​#8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing                                            222 laps

2     #50 Ferrari AF Corse (Fuoco/Molina/Nielsen)                   +1 lap

3     ​​#6 Porsche Penske (Estre/Lotterer/Vanthoor)                   +1 lap

4​     #2 Cadillac Racing (Bamber/Lynn/Westbrook)                  +2 laps

5     #94 Peugeot TotalEnergies (Duval/Menezes/Muller)        +2 laps

6     #51 Ferrari AF Corse (Pier Guidi/Calado/Giovinazzi)        +3 laps

9     ​​#7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing                                            +7 laps


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Victory for Toyota Gazoo Racing in the 6 Hours of Portimão


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