TOYOTA GAZOO Racing extended its 100% winning record with the new GR010 HYBRID Hypercar thanks to a hard-earned victory in an enthralling 6 Hours of Monza, the third round of the 2021 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).
Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López, in the #7 GR010 HYBRID overcame challenges and strong Hypercar competition to earn their first victory of 2021, beating the #36 Alpine by 60.908secs after 204 laps to end their run of misfortune this season.
Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley saw their winning run come to an end due to technical issues on their #8 GR010 HYBRID. The Spa-Francorchamps 6 Hours and Portimao 8 Hours victors finished 33rd overall.
With that result, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing extends its lead in the manufacturers’ World Championship to 30 points over Alpine. Meanwhile the fight for the drivers’ crown has tightened, with the #8 crew now leading by only six points from their #7 team-mates, the reigning champions.
The race had look like being a close battle between the two GR010 HYBRIDs when Mike led the early stages in the pole-sitting #7, followed closely by Sébastien. Only a few seconds separated them during their first two stints but all that changed around 90 minutes into the race, just as Brendon took the wheel of the #8.
A fuel pressure issue required a four-and-a-half-minute pit stop. After returning to the track in 21st position, further misfortune struck immediately when the front-left corner required replacement due to a damaged hub. That cost the #8 12 laps and any chance of victory.
José built a lead over the chasing pack and, despite a safety car due to debris on the track, he held a 22secs lead at half distance. But the dramas continued for the sister car. Following another relatively brief trip to the garage, the team decided to change parts on the fuel system, a complex repair which cost 48 minutes.
But it was not over yet as an exciting race took further twists after Kamui took over the wheel of the leading #7. With less than two hours to go, the car stopped on the side of the track when he an error message on the dashboard. Kamui performed a power cycle and resumed, having lost around a minute and the lead of the race to the #709 Glickenhaus.
But that car only a few minutes in front though, before itself pitting for repairs. Kamui therefore led again until a puncture required a tyre change, setting up an exciting chase of the leading Alpine.
Kamui cut into the advantage before handing over to Mike, who set the fastest lap of the race as he continued to hunt down the leader. A full course yellow with 34 minutes to go gave the #7 a chance to make its final fuel stop and secure the lead, which Mike held until the chequered flag.
The team will now investigate the technical issues in detail back at its Cologne base as it prepares for the biggest race of the season, the Le Mans 24 Hours on 21-22 August. Action starts at La Sarthe with the official test day on 15 August.
Hisatake Murata, Team President: “It has been a positive day for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing; congratulations to the #7 car and also our colleagues in the World Rally team for their victory in Rally Estonia. The first WEC race at Monza will be remembered as a particularly exciting one, and I am happy that we had fans in the grandstands again to enjoy it. The #7 crew showed true fighting spirit and they really deserve their first win of the season. It is frustrating to suffer issues with the #8 car; sorry for Sébastien, Kazuki and Brendon that they were not able to fight for another victory today. But thank you to the mechanics for never giving up and getting the car back on track; this required a big team effort. Our full focus switches to Le Mans now, where we will defend our title and aim to become the first Hypercar winner. There is a lot of hard work ahead for us to achieve that goal.”
Mike Conway (GR010 HYBRID #7): “It’s great to get a win here in Monza because it’s a great track and the fans were back as well. The car felt solid all weekend and, as the weekend went on, it just kept getting better. In the race I am happy with the pace we had; we were able to pull away when we had to. At the end it was a bit touch and go obviously with the problem that Kamui had and also the puncture, but it didn’t change the result, it just made it a bit more interesting. To come home with our first win of the season is great. It’s a pit for the #8 car, they had a bruising day, but I’m really happy with the job we did on our car.”
Kamui Kobayashi (GR010 HYBRID #7): “We were strong all weekend, as we have been in the first two races of the season. Obviously we had bad luck up until now, and even today we had some problems, but still we managed to win. I think this weekend shows we still need to work hard for Le Mans, because we can’t have reliability problems there. I think the #7 car is really getting stronger and we are working well with the team, so I think we are going to have a big chance at Le Mans. For today I am very happy to have won in Monza and this momentum is very important going into the big race.”
José María López (GR010 HYBRID #7): “This is endurance racing and things can happen and today pretty much everything happened. It was a crazy race, but we managed to bring the car home and win the race. It’s not always the case that the quickest car wins but we had a very strong weekend and that is very motivating for Le Mans. To be fastest in all the sessions, take pole and win the race doesn’t happen very often, but I am very proud of the job Kamui and Mike did as well. The whole team, the engineers and the mechanics have performed really well. It’s been a tough race for the team overalls, but we will come back stronger for Le Mans.”
Sébastien Buemi (GR010 HYBRID #8): “That was a really difficult race for us but we did what we could. We were running comfortably in second place and quite close to car #7. Then we started to have issues; with the fuel system and then with the hub. In a six-hour race you cannot recover from problems like that; there was not much we could do. It’s a tough one because we didn’t score many points for the championship. I hope we got our problems out of the way and we won’t have them in Le Mans.”
Kazuki Nakajima (GR010 HYBRID #8): “By the time I got in the car we had already lost so much time with the repairs, it was just a matter of getting the car safely to the chequered flag. Thanks to the mechanics for all their hard work to make sure we could finish the race and congratulations to car #7. They drove a great race and I am pleased for the team to win again. I hope for a smoother race in Le Mans.”
Brendon Hartley (GR010 HYBRID #8): “This was definitely not our day. But it is better we had a day like this here in Monza rather than at Le Mans. That is the one race of the year that we really want to win. We had a few issues with the fuel system which needed repairs, and then with the hub. We’re still in the fight for the World Championship even though obviously we lost a lot of our points advantage, but that’s motorsport, we know how it goes and we’ll come back fighting at Le Mans.”