Toyota Gazoo Racing upbeat ahead of WEC
Toyota Gazoo Racing returns to the Kingdom for next weekend’s FIA WEC Bapco 8 Hours of Bahrain. The event brings the curtain down on a highly successful year for Toyota, with the fourth round of the 2019-2020 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). The team returns as World Champions and they are in pole position to retain both drivers’ and teams’ titles, with two wins to their credit so far and five races remaining.
Toyota leads its standings by 27 points while the #8 TS050 Hybrid crew of Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley top the drivers’ championship by just three points from team-mates Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose María López in the #7 car. However, victory for Rebellion Racing last time out in Shanghai cut that advantage and illustrated the unprecedented challenge to the efficiency of the TS050 Hybrid in its farewell season.
The #8 car finished second while the #7 was third in China. Compared to its last visit to Bahrain in 2017, this weekend the TS050 Hybrids are permitted less hybrid power and less fuel per lap, whilst also weighing more, as part of WEC’s success handicap system. As championship leader, the #8 car carries maximum success handicap of 2.72secs per lap, with the #7 having 2.51secs per lap. Toyota has positive memories of the 5.412km, 15-turn Bahrain International Circuit, having won three times there in WEC.
The team’s last visit to Sakhir came at the end of the 2017 season, with Buemi, Nakajima and Anthony Davidson in the #8 TS050 Hybrid winning their fifth race of the year. For just the second time in WEC history after last season’s Sebring race, Saturday’s race will be contested over eight hours. It will begin at 3pm and run into darkness, with the chequered flag scheduled to fly at 11pm. Air temperatures around 25 degress Celsius can be expected during the day, but when the sun sets, track temperatures are likely to drop.
Therefore, the week’s schedule is designed to give teams a chance to experience all conditions, with Thursday’s three hours of practice split over a day and a night session. At the conclusion of Saturday’s race, the team has just 11 hours before it will be in action again, with the WEC rookie test beginning at 10am on Sunday. Toyota will give Thomas Laurent, Kenta Yamashita and Nyck de Vries a chance to drive the TS050 Hybrids.
That is not the end of the action at BIC. Sunday evening will see the official WEC prize-giving ceremony for the 2018-2019 season, which ended in June at Le Mans. Toyota will collect its teams’ World Championship trophy, while Buemi, Nakajima and Fernando Alonso will be presented with their trophies. “I like racing in Bahrain because I enjoy the track and the atmosphere, plus some of my family are living there too,” said Buemi.
“I also have very good memories because I won my first WEC race in Bahrain in 2013 and became World Champion a year later. It’s also a cool race to participate in because we start in the day and finish in the night. I’m looking forward to it.”