TOYOTA GAZOO Racing achieved a perfect one-two victory in the 6 Hours of Fuji to celebrate the return of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) to Japan in impressive style.
Fuji Speedway hosted WEC for the first time since 2019 and TOYOTA GAZOO Racing strengthened its World Championship challenge and celebrated a memorable homecoming by winning on the GR010 HYBRID Hypercar’s Japanese debut.
Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa delivered a flawless performance in the #8 GR010 HYBRID to earn their second victory of the season, adding to their Le Mans 24 Hours triumph and delivering the team’s eighth win in nine races at Fuji Speedway.
World Champions Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López took second place in their #7 GR010 HYBRID, 1min 8.382secs behind, to complete a hard-earned clean sweep in the penultimate round of the 2022 WEC season.
Maximum points from its home race brings TOYOTA GAZOO Racing a big step closer to retaining its manufacturers’ World Championship, extending its lead to 26 over Alpine, who finished third at Fuji while the #8 crew are now level on points at the top of the drivers’ standings heading into the final race.
Another enthusiastic crowd packed the Fuji Speedway grandstands and saw Kamui in the pole position #7 lead the field away on a hot, sunny day. Kamui established a slender gap over Sébastien in the #8 as the GR010 HYBRIDs set the tone for the race by leading the way from the beginning.
Just a few seconds separated the two during the first hour, which ended with both pitting for two new tyres and more fuel. Kamui retained the lead in the #7 but Sébastien was gradually closing the gap and moved into the lead on lap 64.
As the two-hour mark approached, Kamui handed over the second-placed #7 to José. A lap later, Brendon took the wheel of the #8 and resumed with a 6secs lead, with the third-placed Alpine over 50secs behind.
Brendon began to build a comfortable margin at the front and extended his advantage over José to 10secs at next pit stops, which came at half distance. By the time of the next driver changes, with just under two hours remaining, Brendon had a decisive 30-second lead.
Ryo, already a winner at Fuji Speedway this season in Super Formula, took the wheel of the #8 as Mike replaced José in the #7 for the final stretch. With a one-lap advantage over the third-placed Alpine, the GR010 HYBRIDs controlled the remainder of the race, taking no unnecessary risks.
After 232 laps without safety car or full course yellow, Ryo took the chequered flag to secure TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s third victory of the season, its 37th from 75 hybrid-powered WEC races since 2012. Mike followed 1min 8.382secs later, completing the team’s second one-two of the season.
The fight for both World Championships therefore goes to the final race of the season, when Bahrain International Circuit hosts an eight-hour title decider on 12 November.
Kamui Kobayashi (Team Principal and driver, car #7): “The 6 Hours of Fuji is a very important race and this is the best possible result for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing. Everybody in the team worked so hard for this and did a great job, with no mistakes; I am very proud of everyone. The competition is intense in Hypercar but our race went really smoothly. We had a strong performance, which is a result of the big effort from the team, as well as great support from the Toyota family and all our partners. Thank you to the fans who cheered for us; it has been a fantastic experience to race here at Fuji Speedway again, especially in such brilliant weather. This part of our job is done but now we focus on Bahrain, where we are pushing to win both World Championships. This is important for us so we will keep our focus and do our best.”
Mike Conway (Driver, car #7): “The team did a good job today to get a one-two in our home race, which is what we wanted to achieve. After Le Mans, Fuji is the most important race for us, so we have met our target and delivered a perfect team result. We couldn’t do much more on our car today; car #8 was just a bit quicker so we couldn’t challenge them but we had a clean race and made no mistakes. Well done to car #8 for the victory, congratulations to TOYOTA GAZOO Racing and all our partners for this great result and thanks to the fans for their support all week.”
José María López (Driver, car #7): “This is a great result for the whole team. This race is really important for us and we worked so hard for it. The lap times today don’t reflect how hard the competition has been with the other Hypercars. The team executed a perfect race and I am very happy for everyone. Congratulations to car #8 for the win. Obviously on our car we are not super happy because we didn’t win, but that’s normal and I think we did some good stints. It’s been a tough year on our side of the garage so we go to Bahrain determined to finish 2022 on a high note and to help the team win both World Championships.”
Sébastien Buemi (Driver, car #8): “I am really happy with this result, especially winning TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s home race after three years away from Japan. We had a clean race and it was perfectly executed; there were no mistakes, our pit stops were great and everything went to plan. We couldn’t do any more so thanks a lot to the team for this, particularly Ryo who has been amazing this week. It has gone very well for us and to be in the joint lead of the World Championship going into Bahrain gives us a big chance. We will do everything we can to end the season with the same result.”
Brendon Hartley (Driver, car #8): “We had an amazing car today and the race was incredibly smooth; it doesn’t often happen like that. On our car we saw the track temperatures were likely to be high so we went a different direction on set-up and it worked, we were a bit quicker than the sister car. Séb did a strong first stint then I was able to build a gap and Ryo drove well at the end. It was one of those races where everything just worked perfectly. Big thanks to the engineering team and the mechanics; as a crew we were very strong. Now the World Championship fight comes down to Bahrain, which is pretty cool.”
Ryo Hirakawa (Driver, car #8): “Fuji is my home track and the place where I grew up as a racing driver, so it is emotional to win here in a World Championship race. After winning Le Mans, I came here and really wanted to win my home race so I felt a bit of pressure. But the whole team did a great job. I enjoyed my two stints and it was a great feeling to take the chequered flag. Now we are joint leaders of the World Championship and I think we are in good shape going into the last race of the season. We will enjoy this result tonight and then focus on winning the World Championship in Bahrain.”