TOYOTA GAZOO Racing took a hard-earned double podium finish in the 4 Hours of Shanghai as its winning run came to an end in the third round of the 2019-2020 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).
The World Championship leaders, competing with the maximum success handicap, faced a significant challenge from the non-hybrid LMP1 cars but minimised the damage by delivering a patient race and making up time in the pit stops.
Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley, in the #8 TS050 HYBRID, took a three-point lead in the drivers' World Championship by finishing second behind the winning Rebellion #1. Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López, who began the race tied on points with its sister car, earned third in the #7 TS050 HYBRID. They are now lie second in the World Championship.
That result ends a seven-race winning run for the TS050 HYBRID in its farewell season and leaves TOYOTA GAZOO Racing with a 27-point advantage over Rebellion in the teams' World Championship.
At the start, Kamui made instant progress from fourth on the grid, overtaking the Rebellion and, briefly, Ginetta #5 before the #7 stabilised in third. In contrast, Sébastien in the #8, which started fifth, dropped into the LMP2 pack but drove with patience to move into fourth.
Sébastien then closed in on third-placed Kamui and overtook on lap 12. After 45 minutes of action, both cars made their first stops and took on fuel only, with fast pit work by the mechanics getting both TS050 HYBRIDs back into the race an impressive 10secs faster than the leading Ginettas.
That allowed Sébastien to leapfrog Ginetta #5 for second place and he soon took the lead, showing better pace than his rival in their respective second stints on the same tyres. The #8 continued to lead until lap 40 when Rebellion #1, on new tyres, overtook despite a valiant defence from Sébastien.
Meanwhile, the #7 TS050 HYBRID and both Ginettas were handed drive-through penalties for overtaking Rebellion #1 before the start-line on lap one, dropping Kamui to fifth.
At the first driver changes, soon after the 90-minute mark, Brendon took over the #8 in second place, but around 30 seconds away from the leading Rebellion #1 while José was a similar distance further back in the third-placed #7.
At half distance, the positions at the front were stable as the leading cars battled severe tyre degradation and heavy traffic. Brendon handed over the second-placed #8 to Kazuki on lap 73 at the same time as Mike took the wheel of the #7 in third, and both continued pushing to be ready should the leader lose time.
But the #1 Rebellion suffered no further drama, meaning it took the chequered flag to win by 66.984secs from Kazuki in the #8, with Mike bringing the #7 home in third a further 70.783secs behind.
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will fight to return to the centre of the podium in the fourth round of the season, and the only WEC race in the Middle East, the 8 Hours of Bahrain, on 14 December.
Hisatake Murata, Team President:
“It was a close and exciting fight among all LMP1 cars today, particularly in the first half of the race. Congratulations to Rebellion for their first victory of the season; I hope the team members enjoy a nice celebration tonight. We needed to push very hard in all areas to reach the podium and I am proud of the team's fighting spirit to earn a good amount of World Championship points. Thanks to an effective strategy, great pit work and the incredible efficiency of the TS050 HYBRID we made up time on our rivals and achieved a strong result for the World Championship. Now we look forward to Bahrain next month when we hope to give the fans another exciting race.”
Mike Conway (TS050 HYBRID #7):
“We tried as hard as we could but we lost time with the drive-through and then couldn't close the gap to the sister car. It was quite a difficult race today so we are looking forward to a better weekend in Bahrain when hopefully things will turn around. All credit to Rebellion; they did a good job and got the win.”
Kamui Kobayashi (TS050 HYBRID #7):
“A double podium is a strong result for the team this weekend; I don't think we could expect any better. Well done to Rebellion and thanks to the team, as well as Mike and José, for always pushing hard and getting the most from the car. I had an exciting start and it was fun fighting with the Ginettas, but we didn't have the pace to stay ahead. I expect that will be different for the next race.”
José María López (TS050 HYBRID #7):
“It was a hard race, particularly because it was so difficult to deal with traffic; every overtaking manoeuvre was a bit of a risk in our situation. It felt like we lost a bit of performance on our car during the race as it didn't feel as comfortable as it had earlier in the week. But we did the best we could and getting two cars on the podium is maybe more than we expected, so overall I am relatively happy.”
Sébastien Buemi (TS050 HYBRID #8):
“I am happy with today's race because we did a good job in general; I don't think we could achieve more than this. We did the best we could and had a clean race; all of my team-mates did a great job, so I am pleased. Congratulations to Rebellion on the victory. I hoped we would have an opportunity to fight with them but they didn't make any mistakes and we didn't have the speed.”
Kazuki Nakajima (TS050 HYBRID #8):
“The car actually felt quite nice to drive and I enjoyed the race, but obviously we didn't have enough pace to catch Rebellion. Well done to them for the win. We did our best and managed to get everything out of the car. This should give us confidence as a team going into Bahrain when hopefully we will be in a better position to challenge for the win in a longer race.”
Brendon Hartley (TS050 HYBRID #8):
“We did our absolute maximum and it was a strong team performance to get two cars on the podium. We had some nice battles with our LMP1 rivals and even the LMP2s because lapping those guys was tricky. In the end, the Rebellion was quick and they didn't make any mistakes so they deserved to win the race. We did everything we could to put them under pressure but it wasn't enough.”
4 Hours of Shanghai results:
1st #1 Rebellion (Senna/Menezes/Nato) 125 laps
2nd #8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +1min 6.984secs
3rd #7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +1 lap
4th #5 Ginetta (King/Hanley/Orudzhev) +1 lap
5th #6 Ginetta (Robertson/Simpson/Smith) +2 laps
6th #38 JOTA (Gonzalez/Da Costa/Davidson) +4 laps
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