8 Hours of Bahrain: RaceTitle-deciding Bahrain win for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing brought the curtain down on a thrilling 2023 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season with a one-two victory in the 8 Hours of Bahrain to decide the destination of the drivers’ title.
Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa won the race in their #8 GR010 HYBRID to secure their second successive drivers’ World Championship. Sébastien and Brendon also set a new record of four drivers’ title apiece, while Ryo has now won titles in both his seasons of Hypercar competition so far.
A battling race from Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López in the #7 GR010 HYBRID saw a fine recovery drive following a first-corner incident. They needed victory to challenge for the title but had to settle for second place, earning runners-up spot in the championship.
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing confirmed its fifth consecutive World Championship double of manufacturers’ and drivers’ titles for the perfect end to an exciting season of Hypercar competition which featured fierce challenges from Cadillac, Ferrari, Glickenhaus, Peugeot, Porsche and Vanwall.
That challenge continued into the final race of the season, which began on a hot, sunny afternoon in Bahrain. Sébastien led from pole position but the #7 crew’s title chances were derailed a few metres later when Mike was knocked out of second place at the first corner by the #2 Cadillac, dropping him to the back of the field.
He immediately began a stirring fight back, pulling off a series of decisive overtaking manoeuvres to pass the Peugeots and Porsches within opening first 35 minutes to get back into the top five. Meanwhile, Sébastien’s consistent speed at the front saw him build an advantage over the two Ferraris.
As the first pit stops approached at the one-hour mark, Mike made two more stunning overtakes to return to the top three, passing the #50 Ferrari before muscling his way beyond the #38 Hertz Team Jota Porsche into third a few moments later.
Sébastien stretched his lead further through the second hour while Mike closed on the second-placed #51 Ferrari, although tyre degradation prevented him finding a way past. Just before the start of hour three, Mike handed the #7 to Kamui, who quickly set a new fastest lap and made the move on the #51 Ferrari for second.
Brendon took the wheel of the #8 and led the race as darkness fell, with Kamui around half a minute behind. Pacy and precise driving through the lapped traffic saw the situation stabilise at the front and, at half distance, José and Ryo began their stints with the GR010 HYBRIDs running comfortably in first and second.
As the race entered its last two hours, the penultimate driver changes saw Mike return to the #7 and Sébastien resume battle in the #8. Kamui and Brendon took over for the final hour of the race. With a 40-second advantage in the lead, Brendon guided the #8 safely through the closing laps while Kamui was under no threat from behind but nevertheless showed the pace of the #7 by setting the fastest lap of the race.
The chequered flag waved for Brendon after 249 laps and he finished 47.516secs ahead of Kamui in the #7. That brought the 2023 season to an end after seven events, 64 hours of racing and six wins for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing, including four one-twos, to take the team’s tally to 45 victories since its WEC debut in 2012.
Akio Toyoda comment:
The “battle of athletes” that the two TOYOTA GAZOO Racing cars fought until the end was the best. Thank you to the six drivers, and the mechanics and engineers of both cars for a wonderful race. Congratulations to Sebastien, Brendon and Ryo for their second consecutive driver's title! Thank you also to Kamui, Jose, and Mike in car #7 who made it a one-two!
Today, both cars experienced challenges. I feel sorry that the drivers were not able to drive the final race comfortably. Car #7 had an accident at the start, but it quickly closed the gap and fought for the victory with car #8 in a race that could have easily been won by either car. It was a race where all competitors pushed hard in difficult conditions.
The main characters of motorsports are the people behind the wheel. That's what makes it a sport, and I believe that everyone who takes part is an athlete and a fighter. This year's WEC has seen an increase in rivals, making it the “battle field” that fans have been waiting for. At the championship finale, today's athletes showed how they are giving their all to get the result. As a fan, I was very excited to see this. We would also like to thank the organizers for creating an environment where athletes can compete.
I think Kamui was thinking a lot about what he should do as team representative and what he should do as a driver in the lead-up to this final race.
Kamui as Team Principal works hard to inspire the team, does his best to make them relaxed, and talks to the mechanics and engineers to find areas for improvement. Thank you very much. Watching today's race, I felt that everyone on the team had become athletes fighting for victory, and they also trusted and respected each other. We had become the “family-like and professional team'' that we always strived for. Team Principal Kamui, thank you for your hard work this year.
On the other hand, the only thing I want from Kamui as a driver is: I want him to drive faster than anyone else. I want him to fight with all his might. This hasn't changed. I feel the same way about the other drivers.
This week's Kamui is exactly the kind of driver I want to see: his frustration at not being able to take the pole in qualifying, his constant consultation with the engineers in preparation for the final race, and his hard driving to set the fastest lap in the final stint. I think it's a disappointing result for him that car #7 couldn't win the championship, but as driver Kamui, I think he did a great job.
By showing each person playing two roles, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing has transformed into a “driver-first team”. We may continue to struggle with the gap between these two roles, but I hope that next season we will continue to put forward a driver-first approach, led by Kamui, and we can make the team stronger.
Team Founder, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing.
As I finished writing this message, I received a video from the team. When I looked at it, it was a scene where drivers were polishing their cars after the race. Thank you everyone for taking good care of your car (especially Jose was working hard and having fun polishing the car! Thank you.). I once again thought that I want to create cars that everyone can drive more comfortably!
Kamui Kobayashi (Team Principal and driver, car #7):
“It was an amazing performance to end the season; we achieved everything we could with a one-two in the last race. Obviously, there was not a big chance for car #7 to win the title but congratulations to everyone on car #8, they did a fantastic job. We always race hard between the two cars, and it was close at every race. That is a real achievement from the team and the drivers, who didn’t make any mistakes. Thank you to our partners and our colleagues in Japan for their support, and of course thank you to Sato san and Morizo san for helping us to be so strong. This year we faced competition from so many manufacturers, and we proved the strength of our car and our team. It is definitely a proud moment for all of us to end the season like this.”
Mike Conway (Driver, car #7):
“There are mixed emotions at the end of the season. We were coming into this race on the back foot, trying to make up some points on our sister car but the incident in turn one set us back. That made it difficult because I had to push to get past a lot of cars, which was hard on the tyres. We did our best but second was the most we could achieve today. Congratulations to car #8 on the title, it is well deserved. Big thanks to everyone on car #7 for working so hard this year, including my team-mates Kamui and José who always did a solid job. We had a strong season and to win four times was great.”
José María López (Driver, car #7):
“It has been an amazing year for the team and a great performance from everyone. The two car crews pushed each other in every race but we always worked together as a team., which is the most important. Congratulations to Séb, Brendon and Ryo for winning the race today and of course the championship. On our car, we had a nice year with a lot to celebrate so I am really happy to have been part of it. We tried our best to win today and give ourselves a chance in the championship but after the first corner, it was pretty much impossible. But we fought back well and I’m pleased with the result in the end.”
Sébastien Buemi (Driver, car #8):
“It feels amazing to win the World Championship again, I am really thankful to the team. Everything went well and in the end we managed to win the race and the championship, so it was a fantastic evening. I think we deserved it this year. Obviously, not winning Le Mans was difficult but we showed our strength and won the championship ahead of such tough competition. It is always special to win but this title was won with consistency. Even though we were not always the fastest car, we scored points everywhere, even in the difficult races. We finished on a high and this is the best way to win a championship.”
Brendon Hartley (Driver, car #8):
“It has been an amazing year. I am really proud to be part of the #8 crew and this TOYOTA GAZOO Racing team. Thanks to everyone for a fantastic season. We have had some fierce battles with car #7 and the other Hypercar competitors all year and today was no different. There were times when we were not the fastest car on the track so we were really pushing. Seb had the most stressful part of the race today, getting through the first corner cleanly but he and Ryo did a great job. Becoming a four-time World Champion is probably going to take a while to sink in, but it sounds really nice.”
Ryo Hirakawa (Driver, car #8):
“It is great to win the championship with a victory. We worked so hard to achieve this, so I am really happy. It has been a tough year at times, but we always kept pushing and we won the title again. We have always faced strong competitors and difficult conditions; this race was maybe even tougher than usual. We tried to build a gap and maintain it, but it was not easy with the tyre degradation. This is my second championship in a row, and I could not have imagined this two years ago. I want to say thank you to Toyota for this opportunity and to everyone in the team for their hard work. I want to dedicate this result to them as appreciation for giving me this chance.”
8 Hours of Bahrain - Result:
1st #8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing 249 laps
2nd #7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +47.516secs
3rd #50 Ferrari AF Corse (Fuoco/Molina/Nielsen) +1min 36.286secs
4th #38 Hertz Team Jota (Da Costa/Stevens/Ye) +1min 37.248secs
5th #6 Porsche Penske (Estre/Lotterer/Vanthoor) +1 lap
6th #51 Ferrari AF Corse (Pier Guidi/Calado/Giovinazzi) +1 lap