8 Hours of Bahrain: PreviewTitles on the line for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing is prepared for a title showdown in the 8 Hours of Bahrain this weekend, when the 2022 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) reaches an exciting climax.
After five races of a hard-fought season so far, the battle for Hypercar manufacturers’ and drivers’ titles is still open going into the final round at Bahrain International Circuit.
The drivers’ standings could not be closer. This year’s Le Mans winners Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa, driving the #8 GR010 HYBRID, are tied on points with their rivals in the #36 Alpine, meaning the title will go to the crew which finishes highest on Saturday.
Reigning World Champions Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López, in the #7 GR010 HYBRID, retain a mathematical chance of their third consecutive title. They are 26 points behind, with 39 points still to be won in Bahrain, and can take the crown if their competitors fail to finish.
In the manufacturers’ standings, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing is within touching distance of winning the title for a fourth consecutive season. With a 26-point lead after five rounds, another World Championship is guaranteed if at least one of the two GR010 HYBRIDs reaches the chequered flag.
But, following a one-two on home ground at Fuji Speedway in the previous round, the team has bigger ambitions in Bahrain, where it has won seven of the 10 WEC rounds, and it targets a sixth consecutive victory at the 5.412km circuit.
The 8 Hours of Bahrain brings the curtain down on TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s 10th season in WEC and will be the team’s 76th race since its 2012 debut. Victory on Saturday would be the team’s 39th and would secure its fifth manufacturers’ and drivers’ World Championship double.
Practice in Bahrain begins on Thursday with two 90-minute practice sessions, the first taking place at lunchtime and the second beginning just after sunset, to allow teams to prepare for the day-night race. Following a one-hour final practice on Friday morning, qualifying is held over 10 minutes in the evening and the race begins on Saturday at 2pm local time (midday CET).
Kamui Kobayashi (Team Principal and driver, car #7):
“The whole team is looking forward to Bahrain, which is a fantastic circuit with great facilities. We go there having reached two of our main targets this season; we won Le Mans and at Fuji Speedway. But we still have big goals to achieve this year and we want to win both World Championships in Bahrain. It has been a close fight all season so it will not be easy, but we showed at Fuji Speedway that, thanks to the big support of the team members, TOYOTA colleagues and partners, we can deliver a perfect weekend. That will be our target again. I think it will be another interesting race for the fans to finish this Hypercar season and raise the excitement for 2023, when we can expect a big challenge.”
Mike Conway (Driver, car #7):
“I enjoy racing in Bahrain and I have had some nice moments there over the years; I actually won my first WEC race with TOYOTA there in 2014 and of course Kamui, José and I won the title there the last two years. Realistically, the World Championship is over for our car this year so we will concentrate on finishing the season on a high. We’ve had some frustrating races but it would be great to go into the winter on the back of a victory.”
José María López (Driver, car #7):
“Bahrain is a great place to race; I like the circuit and the weather is always very good so I am looking forward to finishing the season there. It’s a different situation on our car compared to the last couple of years because we are not really in the World Championship fight. But this means we can just focus on getting the best result in the race. Our #7 car has been very strong this season, even if the results didn’t always reflect that, so I think we can challenge for the win.”
Sébastien Buemi (Driver, car #8):
“Clearly our focus in Bahrain will be to win both World Championships. For car #8 this means we need to finish ahead of the Alpine so the most important thing is to stay calm and manage the race without risks or mistakes. It is not straightforward because the competition in Hypercar is pretty close. But we have the experience of winning World Championships and I am confident our GR010 HYBRID will be competitive in Bahrain. It should be an exciting week; let’s see what will happen.”
Brendon Hartley (Driver, car #8):
“It’s pretty cool for the fans that the World Championship fight comes down to the last race, with two crews level on points. There’s no margin for error so we need to hit the ground running from the start of the event and work hard to get the most out of our car. The GR010 HYBRID was well suited to Bahrain last year but that’s no guarantee for this year, and eight hours is a long race so a lot can happen. Title deciders are always a bit nerve-wracking but I am looking forward to it.”
Ryo Hirakawa (Driver, car #8):
“Although I have not raced in Bahrain before, I did drive the GR010 HYBRID there last year in a test at the end of the WEC season. It was important for me because it was the first time I felt at home in the car and could show my performance. So I am optimistic for this weekend. It has been a close competition all season and I am sure it will be the same in Bahrain, but our team is strong. There is only one race to go and we are in a big fight for the World Championship, so let’s go for it.”