TOYOTA Racing won a thrilling Six Hours of Fuji from pole position to delight its home fans in Japan and secure a second victory in its debut FIA World Endurance Championship season. The #7 TS030 HYBRID had been quickest in all but one of the official sessions prior to the race and drivers Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre and Kazuki Nakajima set the standard again in the race, setting the fastest lap in the process.
Victory by 11.223secs gave Kazuki the honour of becoming the first Japanese winner of an FIA world championship race since 1992, when Hitoshi Ogawa won a World Sportscar Championship race in the TOYOTA TS010 at Monza. It is TOYOTA’s third win in world championship endurance racing, following that Monza win and victory in Sao Paulo earlier this season. An exciting race with the #1 Audi was only settled in TOYOTA Racing’s favour late in the race, giving an emotional win just a few kilometres from Higashi-Fuji Technical Centre, where the TOYOTA HYBRID System – Racing is developed.
TOYOTA led from the start with Alex, on the team’s second pole position of the season, holding the advantage through turn one. Using the 300hp boost from the TOYOTA HYBRID System – Racing, he set about pulling away from the pack. A close fight with the #1 Audi ensued through the first pit stops and driver changes. Nicolas took the wheel in the lead but at the two-hour mark the #7 TS030 HYBRID ran wide in traffic and dropped to second.
Taking a second stint on the same tyres gave Nicolas the lead as part of an exciting battle and he handed over to Kazuki through to the half-distance point.
A safety car period soon after created a clear track ahead and Kazuki took advantage in style by clocking a series of fastest laps. He kept up a blistering pace to stay in the fight for victory and completed a mammoth triple stint of almost three hours, maintaining his impressive speed to take the chequered flag in first place. The drivers were joined on the winners’ podium by Takeshi Uchiyamada, Vice Chairman of TOYOTA Motor Corporation, hybrid pioneer and the man responsible for the TOYOTA Prius.
The eighth and final round of the FIA World Endurance Championship takes place at the Shanghai International Circuit in China on 28 October. Alex and Nicolas will drive the #7 TS030 HYBRID, with Kazuki competing in a Super GT race at Motegi.
Alex Wurz: “This is an extremely special day, not only for the TOYOTA Racing team but for the entire TOYOTA family who have supported us. Our first win in Brazil was already an incredible experience but to win here, so close to Higashi-Fuji Technical Centre where the TOYOTA Motor Sport Division is based, is something else. We have had great support all weekend, from TOYOTA members and also from the thousands of fans here at Fuji Speedway. It’s been an incredible experience. We promised to fight for the win but Audi made it very difficult. This win is the result of an enormous team effort, from Japan to Cologne. From the start of the weekend everything was targeted on race balance and strategy; we executed it and got the result we wanted so big thanks to the team.”
Nicolas Lapierre: “It is a great result for us. It was an exciting race which is good for the championship and all the fans who came to Fuji Speedway today. It was a tight fight with Audi. For my part of the race we decided to double-stint the tyres so we could make up some time. It worked well and we got to the front, then I tried to control the gap even if the tyres were a bit old. It worked because at the end I had a little margin. We knew at the end we had to take an extra pit stop so Kazuki had to push really hard, which he did very well. We are very happy to win here. Since the beginning of the year everyone has been speaking about how important this Fuji race is for TOYOTA and we made it.”
Kazuki Nakajima: “What a day! It is a great achievement and it was a team effort so many thanks to my team-mates and the team, who prepared a great car, as well as everybody at TOYOTA who prepared such an impressive hybrid system. We all achieved this together. To win a world championship race as a driver has been my aim for my whole career so it is a great day. The crowd was fantastic; it was great to see so many TOYOTA flags in the grandstands. I was so excited in the last few laps. I was getting the message from my engineer to push hard because I had to make a gap for our last pit stop, so it was quite challenging. I was pushing like crazy and finally we just made it.”
Yoshiaki Kinoshita, Team President: “Since the beginning of this programme, I have looked forward to the Six Hours of Fuji and always I targeted victory. To have such an exciting race and win in front of our home fans is a very special feeling. The whole team performed really well and stayed focused despite the extra pressures of our home race. Alex, Nico and Kazuki fought for the whole race and I very proud of them, particularly Kazuki because he was not in Sao Paulo to enjoy our first win. The whole team has been overwhelmed by the wonderful atmosphere generated by the Japanese fans; thank you so much for the support. I am also pleased to see that this weekend has already established the Six Hours of Fuji as a real highlight in the WEC calendar. Fuji Speedway deserves big congratulations for organising such a fantastic event.”
Courtesy Alastair Moffitt