TOYOTA GAZOO Racing returns to Japan seeking a fourth consecutive victory on home ground in the 6 Hours of Fuji, the second round of the 2019-2020 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season.
Since the team’s last visit to its home track, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing has won Le Mans for a second time and the 2018-2019 teams’ and drivers’ World Championships. It heads to Japan on the back of six consecutive race victories, including the first win of the new season at Silverstone last month.
The #7 TS050 HYBRID crew of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López took maximum points in Great Britain following an exciting four-hour battle at the front, but this triumph comes at a cost for them at Fuji Speedway.
As championship leaders, they will have incurred the maximum success handicap of 1.4secs per lap, while Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley in the #8 TS050 HYBRID are penalised by one second per lap at Fuji Speedway.
“I really look forward to Fuji, the home race of TOYOTA, and I have good memories there,” commented Hartley. “I love going to Japan for the food and the culture. I also love the track and look forward to meeting a lot of TOYOTA supporters in and around the paddock.
“It is always a pleasure to go to Japan for a race. The Fuji track has a lot of character and is unique, particularly the last sector with all the interconnecting corners. It is an old-school track that I think all the drivers love.”
The success handicaps come in addition to the established Equivalence of Technology, which already means the TS050 HYBRIDs are both up to 108kg heavier than their non-hybrid LMP1 rivals, who additionally are allowed to use up to 61% more fuel.
That means the large Japanese crowd, some of whom are part of the TS050 HYBRID powertrain development at nearby Higashi-Fuji Technical Centre, can expect an exciting race as TOYOTA defends its near-perfect record at Fuji Speedway since returning to WEC competition in 2012, having won every race except 2015.
This weekend’s race marks the final time for the iconic TS050 HYBRID to compete in Japan. Fuji Speedway has a special place in the history of TOYOTA’s most successful endurance race car as the location of its first victory, in 2016 when Kamui Kobayashi took a tense victory alongside Mike Conway and Stéphane Sarrazin. The car, which has won a total of 14 WEC races since then, is undefeated at Fuji Speedway.
Practice begins on Friday with three hours of action split into two sessions prior to qualifying on Saturday. Racing begins with a relatively early 11am start for WEC’s return to a six-hour format following the season-opening 4 Hours of Silverstone.