Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López won the 2019-2020 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) title with victory in the eighth and final race of the season as TOYOTA GAZOO Racing said goodbye to its three-time Le Mans-winning TS050 HYBRID with a one-two in the 8 Hours of Bahrain.
The #7 TS050 HYBRID crew overturned a points deficit in the season finale to win from pole position, finally earning a well-deserved major title after suffering heartbreak in the Le Mans 24 Hours in the last two editions.
Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima, the outgoing World Champions, alongside Brendon Hartley in the #8 TS050 HYBRID delivered a perfect result for the team, earning second place, 64.594secs behind.
Today's race brought the curtain down on the LMP1 era in endurance racing, in which Toyota has participated since 2012. In its 64 races, the team has won 29 races, earned 26 pole positions and set 24 fastest laps, winning both the teams' and drivers' World Championship in three of its eight seasons.
During that period, fuel consumption has been reduced by 35% while lap times at Le Mans improved by around 10 seconds per lap, with the team's final LMP1 car, the TS050 HYBRID, writing a new page in endurance history by setting the fastest-ever lap around the legendary Circuit de la Sarthe.
Since its 2016 debut, the TS050 HYBRID has been raced by 11 different drivers in 34 races, winning Le Mans three times as part of 19 WEC victories, earning 16 pole positions and setting 15 fastest laps in the process.
The final WEC race of the season was a straight fight between the two TS050 HYBRIDs for victory and the world title, with car #7 holding a theoretical 0.54secs success handicap advantage over the #8 car as a result of the standings going into this event.
Mike started from pole position and established a lead which Kamui and José would extend consistently throughout the next eight hours. Fighting against their success handicap was a difficult challenge for the #8 crew despite a valiant effort, first from race starter Sébastien, then Brendon and Kazuki.
The gap expanded to 75 seconds soon after the half distance mark, when it was all but eliminated by a safety car for debris in the entrance to the pit lane. First Kazuki, then Sébastien, put the pressure on the #7 car's lead but José, and soon after Mike, held their nerve and rebuilt the lead.
Going into the final quarter of the race, the lead was around 30secs, leaving no margin for error for the #7 car.But they rose to the challenge and established a one-minute lead in the final hour, with Kamui crossing the line to win after 263 laps, taking the World Championship title in the process. Kazuki was at the wheel of the #8 as it finished second in the race and in the standings, five points behind.
While the desert dust is settling on the 2019-2020 season, preparations for the six-race 2021 campaign are already under way with endurance tests for the team's new Hypercar planned in the coming months, prior to its race debut in the 1000 Miles of Sebring on 19 March.
Hisatake Murata, Team President:
“Congratulations to Mike, Kamui and José on becoming World Champions. Endurance racing is a team sport and the whole team deserves my congratulations for their performances this season; I am proud of their team spirit and determination. Thank you also to the championship and race organisers for their strong efforts which enabled us to complete the season despite the global circumstances, and to the fans for their continuing support of endurance racing. It is an emotional moment to see the final race of the LMP1 era and the last for our TS050 HYBRID. We have so many memories of the last eight seasons; we remember exciting races, great competitors and fantastic cars. We are proud to have been part of this period of endurance racing and we look forward to entertaining the fans in the new Hypercar era.”
Mike Conway (TS050 HYBRID #7):
“It's a great feeling to be standing here as a World Champion at the end of a tough but fantastic season. I want to say a big thanks to the team for giving José, Kamui and me the chance to achieve this. The #7 crew and my team-mates did a perfect job throughout the season so this feels really good. I am a bit sad that this was the last race for the TS050 HYBRID but it finished perfectly for us.”
Kamui Kobayashi (TS050 HYBRID #7):
“Thank you very much for all the support from Japan and Cologne, especially looking back to the very hard work done on the TS050 since 2016. It has not been easy but now we have great memories with this car. The team won Le Mans three times and now we are the World Champions with the #7 car. We cannot ask for more than this result. But it's not only achieved by the drivers. To the mechanics, engineers and everyone who worked on the project, thank you all so much.”
José María López (TS050 HYBRID #7):
“It's a very special feeling to become a World Champion with a win today. I want to thank everyone back in Cologne and at Higashi-Fuji; everyone who worked on this fanatstic car for so many years. It has been an amazing season. We worked very hard for this and it's a dream to become World Champion with Kamui and Mike; they have become like brothers to me. It's really an amazing feeling.”
Sébastien Buemi (TS050 HYBRID #8):
“Congratulations to car #7 and congratulations to the team who did a race without mistakes. In our car, we did the best we could. The success handicap was quite strong but I am happy with the race we did; we did a perfect job but had no chance to win. That's life. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Now that's it for the TS050 HYBRID; I thought about this in my last laps of the race and enjoyed it.”
Kazuki Nakajima (TS050 HYBRID #8):
“Congratulations to the car #7 crew. They had a good season and deserve the title. We also had a good season with our Le Mans win, but due to the success handicap Bahrain was difficult for us. At one point we managed to make the race exciting which is a good achievement. Also thanks to our mechanics and engineers who did a great job throughout the season. Now I look forward to drive the Hypercar for the first time.”
Brendon Hartley (TS050 HYBRID #8):
“I think we did a really nice race on car #8. We knew that we were more than half a second down, so we really threw everything at it. On the average lap times we were good, but it was not enough today with the success handicap. Congratulations to car #7 who did not make any mistakes. They did the job and deserve the drivers' World Championship.”
8 Hours of Bahrain results:
1st #7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing 263 laps
2nd #8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +1min04.594secs
3rd #37 Jackie Chan (Tung/Aubry/Stevens) +16 laps
4th #38 JOTA (Gonzalez/da Costa/Davidson) +16 laps
5th #29 Team Nederland (Van Eerd/Van der Garde/De Vries) +16 laps
6th #22 United Autosports (Hanson/Albuquerque/di Resta) +16 laps
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