TOYOTA GAZOO Racing wins first-ever hypercar championship of World Endurance Championship

The era of the Hypercar category of the World Endurance Championship (WEC) began in May this year with the Spa 6 Hours in Belgium. TOYOTA GAZOO Racing was the first team to enter a car – the GR010 HYBRID – built to the new rules that are aimed at lowering speeds and reduce costs (compared to the previous LMP1 regulations).

At the Bahrain International Circuit this weekend, the team finished 1-2 in very hot and challenging conditions to confirm TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s fourth World Championship in WEC, and its third in succession. The victory also maintained the GR010 HYBRID Hypercar’s 100% winning record in 2021, with one race remaining.

Fighting for Drivers title
The focus will now switch to the Drivers’ title fight in next weekend’s sixth and final race, also at the same circuit. The Le Mans-winning #7 crew moved a significant step closer to retaining the World Championship they won in Bahrain 12 months ago. Their third win of the season extends their advantage over the #8 drivers to 15 points.

The contest between the two GR010 HYBRID crews was intense throughout the event and, when the race got under way, Sebastien Buemi in the #8 held the advantage from pole position. But Mike  Conway pursued him throughout the first stint and the pair were separated by less than a second for the opening 45 minutes.

The Alpine Elf Matmut Endurance Team is one of the three teams to compete in the hypercar category which was introduced this year.

Pushing tyres to the limit
The cars were closely matched and the lead changed hands several times in the early stages as the momentum swung. Eventually the #7 established itself at the front, suffering slightly less from tyre degradation on a day when all hypercars faced the same issue. “In my stint, it was a case of managing the tyres from the start. There were a lot of unknowns because we have never taken tyres so far into a race before, but it all worked out well,” said Conway.

At half distance, Jose Maria Lopez led by just 10 seconds from Buemi but the battle took a decisive turn after 4 hours when the #8 was delayed during a tyre change and dropped to third. Although Brendon Hartley swiftly overtook an Alpine (also in the hypercar category) to reclaim second, he trailed Kamui Kobayashi by around 40 seconds.

The GR010 HYBRIDs maintained their pace at the front and Kobayashi was at the wheel of the victorious #7 car when it crossed the line after 185 laps. Kazuki Nakajima followed 51.401secs later to complete the one-two. “It was tough race with the heat, but the temperature was a bit better for me at the end of the race. We ran an aggressive set-up to try to maybe get an edge, but it didn’t work out that way,” said Nakajima of this second placing.

Porsche 911 RSR, GR Racing #86, Michael Wainwright (GB), Tom Gamble (GB), Benjamin Barker (GB)

Porsche just 1 point ahead of Ferrari
In the WEC GT Manufacturers’ Championship, Porsche’s grid-to-finish line win by Kevin Estre and Neel Jani puts the German carmaker just 1 point ahead of Ferrari, so the final race is sure to be very tightly contested.

The end of the 6-hour race marks the halfway point in the two rounds to be held in Bahrain. The teams are now beginning preparations for an 8-hour race on Saturday November 6 which ends the 2021 season and will decide the outcome of the Drivers’ World Championship.

Peugeot 9X8 hybrid hypercar to join 2022 World Endurance Championship

Covering the motor industry since 1977 and still at it!

Related Articles