Worldwide winning weekend for Toyota Gazoo Racing

2 May 2023

Toyota Gazoo Racing celebrated victories on two sides of the world at the weekend, strengthening their championship leads in the FIA World Endurance (WEC) and World Rally-Raid (W2RC) competition.

On Saturday, the WEC team recorded a one-two finish in the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, the day after their W2RC colleagues clinched success in the Sonora Rally in Mexico.

6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps

Toyota Gazoo Racing posted a one-two finish in a spectacular third round of the 2023 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) in Belgium.

Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López won the race from pole position in the No7 GR010 Hybrid to earn a Hypercar hat-trick for the team from the opening three races of 2023, following Toyota victories in Sebring and Portimão.

A remarkable fightback from a back-row start saw Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa, in the No8 GR010 Hybrid earn an unexpected second place. They now lead the drivers’ World Championship by five points from the No7 crew. Toyota Gazoo Racing will thus take a 33-point World Championship lead over Ferrari into the centenary edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours on 10-11 June, the mid-point in the seven-race season.

Despite light rain, Conway started the race on slick tyres, dropping to seventh place against competitors who opted for wet tyres. He soon had a grip advantage and moved up to sixth prior to a safety car period. Buemi, also on dry tyres, made up 15 places on the opening lap alone.

The GR010 Hybrids charged through the field at the restart. Conway raced from sixth to the lead in just over a lap while Buemi made it past all the LMP2 field and to run in seventh by lap 10. He maintained that momentum, passing the Glickenhaus and No5 Porsche Hypercars on his way to fourth before the first pit stops.

Conway had extended his lead to 30secs when the second-placed No3 Cadillac crashed and the resulting safety car closed the field. That incident put Buemi into third and the GR010 Hybrids were soon running one-two after the No6 Porsche suffered a technical issue early in the third hour.

López took the wheel of the No7 and stretched his lead over Hirakawa, who was struggling with balance issues in the No8 car. He led by around a minute at half distance, but the gap was again reduced by another safety car period, midway through the fourth hour.

López held a slender lead when he handed over to Kobayashi with just under two hours remaining. Hartley replaced Hirakawa and led briefly, until Kobayashi was able to pass thanks to his warmer tyres. The battle was put on hold moments later due to yet another safety car.

That set up a grandstand finish between the GR010 Hybrids with little separating the pair in the closing stages. With 45 minutes remaining, they made their final pit stops and Kobayashi resumed just behind Hartley, but closing fast after setting the fastest lap of the race.

A thrilling overtake at Raidillon put the No7 back in front and Kobayashi stretched his lead, taking the chequered flag after 148 laps to earn the No7 car’s second win of the season, by 16.637secs from Hartley.

Team quotes

Kamui Kobayashi (Team Principal and driver, car No7): “That was a fantastic job from the whole team to get the maximum result from this race. It has been a challenging week, particularly in terms of tyre management. When you have new tyres you have massive grip but you get degradation so it was not easy to decide how much to push. We can be very happy to be here with a one-two and no issues during the race, considering how challenging it has been. In my stint I was fighting with the No8 car and it is never easy to fight against your team-mate but I think we put on a good show. Now we aim to keep this going for Le Mans.”

Mike Conway (driver, car No7): “It was a crazy race but a great result for both cars. It was a tricky call at the beginning on the tyres, but we knew it probably wasn’t going to rain again. We just had to survive as best we could. I lost a lot of positions but when the track dried, we had the right tyres and I picked off the guys ahead. We made some good calls and Kamui and José did mega stints, pushing all the way to the end. Car No8 did well to finish second, so I am really happy to get such a result for the team.”

José María López (driver, car No7): “I am very happy for the team to get a one-two from such a difficult race. As usual here at Spa the track conditions were challenging. We made a tough call to start with slicks on a damp track, but it really paid off, thanks to Mike’s great stint. There were different emotions during the race; endurance racing is always like this. At one point I had a comfortable lead then the safety car reset it to zero. I had cars behind me on better tyres so had to deal with that. It was a brilliant performance by everyone on the team – the engineers, pit crew, Mike and Kamui, and of course the No8 car. I am so happy for everyone who worked very, very hard this weekend. It has not been easy, but it paid off.”

Sébastien Buemi (driver, car No8): “Second place is a great recovery drive. Starting 36th on the grid and coming back to second place, after actually fighting for the win, is a real achievement. The win for car No7 makes it a perfect day and I am really happy for the team. It was an eventful race, particularly at the beginning with the rain, but I tried to stay out of trouble and just continue to move up the field. This is a good preparation for Le Mans; now we can get ready for June.”

Brendon Hartley (driver, car No8): “It is an amazing result for the whole team and a big recovery job from our car. Sébastien made an amazing start in tricky conditions and got through the field cleanly, after the team made the right call on tyres. That was a big decision, but it was the right one. Car No7 deserved the victory because they had a little more pace than us today, particularly in the middle part of the race. We went in a different direction on set-up; I couldn’t challenge Kamui in the final stint. We were one set of tyres down after what happened in qualifying so we can be very happy to finish second and take these points.”

Ryo Hirakawa (driver, car No8): “Considering our starting position, I am quite happy with this result. It was not easy all week, but we kept fighting and never gave up. Big thanks to the engineers, mechanics and of course Sébastien and Brendon who drove so well, for making it possible to recover a strong result after the disappointment in qualifying. A one-two for the team is the perfect result and the best preparation for Le Mans.”

6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps – results

1st      ​​No7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing                                                       148 laps

2nd     ​No8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing                                                        +16.637sec

3rd​      No51 Ferrari AF Corse (Pier Guidi/Calado/Giovinazzi)                   +1min 14.439sec

4th​      No5 Porsche Penske (Cameron/Christensen/Makowiecki)             +1min 17.264sec

5th​      No2 Cadillac Racing (Bamber/Lynn/Westbrook)                              +1 lap

6th ​     No38 Hertz Team Jota (Da Costa/Stevens/Ye)                                +1 lap

Sonora Rally

Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel celebrated a stunning overall victory in the 2023 Sonora Rally on Friday, driving their GR DKR Hilux T1+ to a second-place finish in the final stage, just 1 minute behind stage winners Yazeed Al Rajhi and Timo Gottschalk. With this result, the duo secured overall victory, finishing 6 minutes and 22 seconds ahead of Al Rajhi and Gottschalk.

Stage 5, the shortest of the rally, covered a distance of 86 miles, with liaisons totalling 147 miles. The terrain between Peñasco and San Luis presented a mix of challenging desert landscapes, featuring fast sections, sandy tracks, and rocky outcrops. The diverse range of landscapes tested the teams’ navigational skills, vehicle performance, and adaptability.

This win has strengthened Al-Attiyah and Baumel’s position in the World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC) drivers’ title race. They earned 51 points during the Sonora Rally, putting them 30 points clear of their nearest rivals, with only two rounds remaining. Toyota Gazoo Racing have also increased their lead in the manufacturers’ standings to 68 points over their nearest competition.

The 2023 Sonora Rally marked the first year the event was included in the W2RC calendar, and it proved to be a worthy addition, offering tough terrain that resembles parts of the Dakar Rally, and a thrilling challenge for competitors.

Throughout the rally, Al-Attiyah and Baumel showcased their expertise, determination, and ability to overcome technical issues. Their consistent performance in the GR DKR Hilux T1+, which previously brought them victories in both the 2022 and 2023 Dakar Rallies, proved crucial in securing their win.

As the championship race heats up, the W2RC contenders now look forward to the Desafio Ruta 40, taking place in Argentina from 26 August 26 to 1 September. This will provide another opportunity for teams to test their vehicles, strategies, and resilience in the face of challenging terrain and fierce competition.

Details of the route are yet to be revealed, but many of the competitors know the Argentine landscape well after a decade of Dakar Rally competition in the area. Even so, each race is unique, and the crew will make sure that they are fully prepared for the challenges.

Team quotes

Alain Dujardyn, TGR W2RC Team Principal: “I would like to extend my congratulations to both Nasser and Mathieu for their consistent performance throughout the Sonora Rally, which was an entirely new event for the team, and a first outing in this area for our GR DKR Hilux T1+. I would also like to thank our team of engineers and technicians, who rebuilt the car after the crash in Abu Dhabi, allowing the race crew to rely on the quality, durability and reliability that is synonymous with all Toyota products. They also did an excellent job servicing the car during the Sonora Rally. I would also like to thank Aventura Events for putting together a spectacular event – one during which we regained the upper hand in the W2RC on all fronts: manufacturer, driver and co-driver.”

Nasser Al-Attiyah: “To come here after our big crash in Abu Dhabi and try to defend our title by winning the race wasn’t easy, but we managed to lead for most of the event. We also had an amazing fight with Sebastien Loeb and Yazeed Al Rajhi, and I’m happy that we now have a big lead in the championship. Our GR DKR Hilux T1+ was back to full strength, and we had an amazing race.”

Mathieu Baumel: “The first two days were unique, racing through the cactus plants, after which things opened up a big into the more familiar, open desert feel. We enjoyed competing here, and we are very pleased to have won the event. This is a great result for us, for the rally, for the team and also for the championship.”

Sonora Rally results

1st        N Al-Attiyah (QAT)/M. Baumel (FRA)          No201 Toyota Gazoo Racing           

2nd       Y Al Rajhi (SAU)/T Gottschalk (GER)            No207 Overdrive Racing

3rd        S Halpern (ARG)/B Graue (ARG)                  No205 X-Raid Mini JCW Team

4th        D Krotov (KGZ)/K Zhiltsov (ISR)                    No207 X-Raid Mini JCW Team

5th        J Yacopini (ARG)/D Oliveras (ESP)               No203 Overdrive Racing


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Worldwide winning weekend for Toyota Gazoo Racing


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