Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López drove the No. 7 TS050 Hybrid to its second World Endurance Championship victory of the 2019-2020 WEC season on Saturday in the 8 Hours of Bahrain.
The win propelled the drivers to the lead in the drivers’ World Championship. The trio scored a one-lap margin of victory over Toyota’s sister No. 8 car driven by Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley.
For this race, both Toyotas raced with a success handicap that reduced hybrid and fuel use per lap. The runner-up car raced with a success handicap of 0.21 second per lap against the winners. The handicap was determined by standings going into the race.
It was the third one-two finish for Toyota in four WEC races this season.
Toyota’s one-two finish came after the cars qualified third and fourth on the grid behind the No. 1 Rebellion Racing machine and the No. 5 Ginetta of Team LNT. At the start, however, the No. 5 crashed into the No. 1. Both cars spun and caught up Sébastien Buemi in the No. 8 Toyota, damaging the Toyota’s front left bodywork.
Buemi, who had started third, dropped to 10th as Conway dodged the mayhem and took the lead from the fourth spot on the grid in the No. 7 Toyota.
Over the next half an hour, Buemi pushed to catch the top three and he took third on lap 43. Soon after the 90-minute mark, Conway handed the leading No. 7 to Kobayashi, while Brendon Hartley took over the No. 8 with both cars on new tires.
The Toyotas went on to a comfortable one-two finish. The No. 1 Rebellion went on to finish two laps back in third to complete the podium.
“It is a fantastic result to get a one-two here,” Conway said. “We pushed as hard as we could all day and got a result which we weren’t expecting at the start of the week. That is thanks to a great job by everyone; my teammates and my team. We struggled earlier in the week but together as a team we got the car dialed in. It’s brilliant to win and it’s nice to lead the World Championship again.”
The World Championship battle will resume in the new year, returning to Austin, Texas, following a two-year absence for the 6 Hours of Circuit of The Americas on Feb. 22, the first of a two-race stint in the United States with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring following on March 20.
“To finish the year with a win is great,” Kobayashi said. “Thanks to the team for doing such a good job here. We knew it would be a tough race as we had some strong competition but we managed it really well, made no mistakes and had fast pit stops. Mike and José did a really good job too. There is still a long way to go in the season but I am really happy and we will be pushing to keep this form going.”