Toyota GAZOO Racing returned to the podium with second and third-place finishes in the 6 Hours of Shanghai, the penultimate race of the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season.
The #6 Toyota TS050 Hybrid driven by Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi recovered from the misfortune of two tire punctures to earn second place and their fourth consecutive podium finish. That result keeps them in the fight for the drivers’ World Championship, having closed the gap to top spot to 17 points, with 26 still to fight for in the final race, in Bahrain on 19 November.
Third place for Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima, their first podium of the season, keeps the team in the fight for runners-up in the manufacturers’ championship.
Takayuki Yoshitsugu, Chief Representative, Middle East and North Africa Representative Office, Toyota Motor Corporation, commented, “It was a tough race, but both cars performed exceptionally well under challenging circumstances to bring home a double podium finish for the team. The stage is now set for an exciting finale in Bahrain. The experience gained from our multiple participations in the FIA World Endurance Championship will greatly enrich Toyota’s future vehicle development as we continue our pursuit of creating ‘ever-better’ cars. As usual, the fans were excellent, and we are counting on their continued support as the action shifts to the final round in Bahrain.”
Toshio Sato, Team President, said, “We are pleased to have both cars on the podium for the first time this season, despite some bad luck. Just like in the last three races, we have again seen an incredibly close fight with very little separating the three LMP1 manufacturers. This shows how high the level of competition is in WEC, and I think the many fans here in Shanghai enjoyed this spectacle. Now we have a short time to prepare for the last race in Bahrain when we expect to be again competitive; we want to maintain our strong performance and fight for the win again.”
When the race began on a sunny Shanghai day, Sébastien was at the wheel of the #5 Toyota for the team’s first front-row start of 2016, and he led briefly on the first lap before dropping to fifth, with Mike running fourth in the #6 Toyota in the opening laps. An unscheduled stop around the 90-minute mark for the #8, one of the competitors’ vehicles, lifted the #6 Toyota into third place, with its sister car still just behind in fourth and both Toyota TS050 Hybrids pushing hard at the front.
The situation remained like that through two driver changes for both cars until, with two-and-a-half hours gone, Kamui passed the competitor’s vehicle #2 for second following an exciting three-lap duel. That pattern was repeated with the #5 Toyota soon after when Sébastien took over the fight shortly before the halfway point, closed up to the competitor’s vehicle #2 and took third. However, during the next round of pit stops, he dropped behind again.
More position changes followed soon after that, when a rear-left tire puncture on the #6 Toyota forced an unplanned pit stop and dropped Mike to fourth, with the #5 Toyota moving into the podium positions. Frustratingly, misfortune again struck the #6 Toyota when another puncture forced an early pit stop with 80 minutes to go. Kamui began a charging recovery drive, overtaking the #5 Toyota for third and then, with 45 minutes remaining, taking second from the competitor’s vehicle #2.
At the final pit stops, Anthony emerged ahead of the competitor’s vehicle #2, bringing the #5 Toyota back into the podium positions while, after the two punctures, Kamui was too far behind the race leader to mount an attack. As the sun set, Kamui took the chequered flag in second, 59.785 seconds behind the winning #1 car. Anthony followed 6.253 seconds later to secure Toyota’s first double podium since Shanghai in 2014.