Toyota Gazoo Racing Ends WEC Drought at 6 Hours of Fuji
It’s been a tough World Endurance Championship season for Toyota. After nearly winning the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps and getting agonizingly close to winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Toyota Gazoo Racing team and its two LMP1 racing cars have had a fairly average run.
That all changed at the 6 Hours of Fuji, where Toyota finally got its lucky break—though there was no luck involved.
The #8 Audi had the advantage for most of the race, but a smart gamble by the Toyota team allowed them to nab victory. While the Audi pitted for a final set of fresh tires, the #6 Toyota stayed out and converted a seven-second deficit to a 13-second advantage.
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The downside of this, of course, was that driver Kamui Kobayashi had to maintain the advantage while nursing worn tires through the final 45 minutes of the race. The gap went down rapidly at first but stabilized at around four to six seconds until the final ten minutes, when Loic Duval pushed his Audi as hard as he could to reduce the gap to just two seconds.
Ultimately, however, Kobayashi prevailed and crossed the checkered flag first. Call it the home advantage—a Japanese driver in a Japanese car at one of Japan’s most famous races? It doesn’t get better than that for Toyota.
Toyota Gazoo Racing’s win also marked its first since the 2014 Fuji race and the end of Porsche’s winning streak. Porsche didn’t really do anything wrong at the race—it just didn’t have the pace.
There are just two more rounds in this year’s WEC at Shanghai and Bahrain, respectively. Toyota might just get a few more wins yet.