Toyota City, Japan, Mar 4, 2024 - (JCN Newswire) - TOYOTA GAZOO Racing took on a tough challenge in the season-opening Qatar 1812 KM and earned valuable FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) points after a determined team effort.

Drivers, engineers and mechanics worked tirelessly through the difficult Prologue test and free practice sessions to optimise the GR010 HYBRIDs in terms of tyres, weight and car balance around the Lusail International Circuit in the search for race performance.

Thanks to that work and a smart race strategy, the #7 GR010 HYBRID of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Nyck de Vries maximised the car’s potential and scored significant World Championship points for a hard-earned sixth place.

World Champions Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa, in the #8 GR010 HYBRID, battled equally hard after a tough start and finished 10th in a 19-strong Hypercar field, featuring Alpine, BMW, Cadillac, Ferrari, Isotta Fraschini, Lamborghini, Peugeot and Porsche.

The race started under the midday sun and the action was equally hot on the opening lap. Mike started on the front row but suffered oversteer going into turn one, forcing him wide and dropping the #7 down to seventh. The #8 also lost positions from 11th on the grid and Sébastien ended the first lap in 14th.

With 37 cars in the field, traffic was a factor around the relatively narrow 5.418km Lusail International Circuit. Mike and Sébastien used their experience to stay out of trouble, unlike several rivals, and started to move up the order.

Shortly before the two-hour mark, Mike handed over the #7 to Nyck while Brendon replaced Sébastien. Both cars were fitted with new Michelin tyres on the left side to continue their battle to gain positions, with new right-side rubber coming at the next stop as the team explored different strategies.

A battling performance from Nyck moved the #7 into the top six and he handed over to Kamui after almost four hours. But a difficult stint for Brendon meant Ryo faced a battle to return the #8 to the top 10, and his task got tougher when an issue with the rear left wheel cost time and positions at his next pit stop.

As the race moved into the last five hours, the starting drivers were back behind the wheel, with Mike fighting for sixth place and Sébastien edging closer to the points. With just over two hours remaining, a final driver change saw Nyck and Ryo resume the battle under lights in the Qatari night.

As the clock counted down, the various fuel strategies played out and Nyck was in seventh entering the final lap. That became sixth when he passed the stricken #93 Peugeot in the final metres of the race. Ryo completed the race in 10th to make it a double points finish for the team, despite the challenging circumstances.

After missing out on an overall podium for the first time since Silverstone in 2018, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing is determined to achieve an instant return at the next round of the 2024 season, the 6 Hours of Imola, in Italy on 21 April.

Kamui Kobayashi (Team Principal and driver, car #7):

“Unfortunately for this first race of the season we struggled all the way through the race to find strong performance. Finishing sixth was the best we could realistically achieve today, and this isn’t what we hoped for coming here. Obviously, our car was not well suited to this circuit; it is very surprising how challenging this event has been for us. But, despite the difficulties, all team members worked very hard to score points with both cars. The drivers didn’t make any mistakes and the engineers and mechanics performed great too. We will look at everything from this race and work hard to come back stronger at Imola.”

Mike Conway (Driver, car #7):

“That was quite a tough race. We didn’t have the pace to fight up front, but our pace was ebbing and flowing depending on what stage in the race we were at. At some points we were more competitive, and at others less so. Going into the race we were not sure what we would take home from Qatar, but it has been pretty good in terms of points. We got a bit fortunate at the end to get sixth, which is a decent result all in all. We will keep pushing and aim for better at Imola.”

Nyck de Vries (Driver, car #7):

“After 10 hours of battling, it was a hard-fought result. We were lacking pace compared to the leading cars, so we have to be happy with sixth, although we definitely needed a little bit of luck to finish there because on merit the top six was probably just out of reach. We have scored good points and I think that was the best we could do today. We had to maximise the weekend and we did that.”

Sébastien Buemi (Driver, car #8):

“It was a difficult race for us, but we still salvaged two points. We didn’t have the performance so we just did the best we could and brought both cars to the chequered flag. Even when we cannot win, at least we still try to score points. It has been a tough week, but we will work hard and come back stronger for Imola, which is a new track for WEC. We have never been there, but I am sure it will suit our car better than here and we obviously expect to have a better result.”

Brendon Hartley (Driver, car #8):

“It has been a challenging day, at the end of a challenging week, particularly on our side of the garage. Neither car had the speed to fight for the podium. Nevertheless, we salvaged points on both cars, and we all fought really hard for them. I am proud of all the team for the way we responded and kept fighting. We raced as hard as we could and now we will focus on fighting back at the next race.”

Ryo Hirakawa (Driver, car #8):

“Obviously this has been a really tough week for us here, tougher than we expected. I am really disappointed we could not compete for a better result, but everyone pushed as hard as possible, and this was the most we could achieve. We think Imola should be more suited to us in terms of track layout so I hope we will come back stronger in the next race. We have a lot of things to work on.”

Qatar 1812 KM – Result

1st #6 Porsche Penske (Estre/Lotterer/Vanthoor) 335 laps
2nd #12 Hertz Team JOTA (Stevens/Ilott/Nato) +33.297secs
3rd #5 Porsche Penske (Campbell/Christensen/Makowiecki) +34.396secs
4th #2 Cadillac Racing (Bamber/Lynn/Bourdais) +1 lap
5th #83 AF Corse (Kubica/Shwartzman/Ye) +1 lap
6th #7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +1 lap
10th #8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +2 laps

For more information, visit

Copyright 2024 JCN Newswire. All rights reserved.