TOKYO, July 11, 2022 – (JCN Newswire) – TOYOTA GAZOO Racing earned a dramatic double podium finish in the 6 Hours of Monza after an exciting but ultimately frustrating fourth round of the 2022 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).
Both GR010 HYBRIDs were strong contenders for victory in an incident-packed race at the Temple of Speed, but suffered misfortune in the heat of Hypercar competition.
Fresh from their Le Mans 24 Hours win, Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa overcame an early technical issue on their #8 GR010 HYBRID to finish second, only 2.762secs behind the winning #36 Alpine.
Last year’s Monza winners, Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez in the #7 GR010 HYBRID, were leading when they lost time following contact with the Alpine. The reigning World Champions finished third, two laps behind.
A spectacular race among four Hypercar manufacturers leaves both World Championships wide open going into the final two races. TOYOTA GAZOO Racing leads the manufacturers’ standings by 15 points from Alpine, while the #8 crew are second in the drivers’ rankings, 10 points behind their Alpine counterparts.
The two GR010 HYBRIDs were part of a close race from the very beginning. After a clean start, Sebastien drove brilliantly to hold second place under pressure from Alpine, while Jose was close behind in fourth.
Two full course yellows in the opening 30 minutes saw all Hypercars make fuel stops. Smart strategy elevated Sebastien into second and Jose into third, although they were unable to challenge the race-leading Glickenhaus.
Late in the first hour, Sebastien’s race was interrupted by an electrical issue. He managed the issue well but could not avoid dropping two positions on track, including losing second to Jose. A system reset at his next scheduled pit stop cost 30 seconds and put him fifth but the car was back on the pace and Sebastien overtook Peugeot #94 for fourth.
A full course yellow around one-third distance triggered the next pit stops. Mike took over the #7 car and diced for second place with the Alpine, while Brendon resumed in the #8.
The complexion of the race changed after two-and-a-half hours when an accident from a GT competitor necessitated a safety car and closed up the field. All Hypercars pitted and Mike overhauled the Glickenhaus for the lead, thanks to a shorter pit stop.
When the race resumed at half distance, Brendon moved into second when Glickenhaus served a drive-through penalty for a speeding infringement. He held position until the next pit stops, despite a sustained challenge from the Alpine.
The top three Hypercars were separated by only a few seconds going into the final two hours and the positions alternated at each pit stop as a result of TOYOTA GAZOO Racing and Alpine changing tyres at different intervals.
Towards the end of the fifth hour, with Kamui leading a GR010 HYBRID one-two, Ryo heroically held off the Alpine, which was on fresher tyres, for several laps before dropping to third on lap 153. A lap later, Kamui was defending the lead on the start-finish straight when the #7 and the Alpine made contact.
The #7 sustained a right rear puncture and damage to its bodywork, and Kamui returned slowly to the pits for repairs. Thanks to a full course yellow, he lost only one lap and returned in third. When racing resumed with an hour remaining, Ryo was second and putting pressure on the race leader.
Ryo showed impressive speed, as well as skill through the traffic, to keep the pressure on and he closed to within three seconds at the chequered flag. Kamui, who served a 90-second penalty as a result of the incident with the Alpine, took the flag in the #7 in third, two laps behind.
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing therefore travels to the 6 Hours of Fuji with a point to prove, intent on returning to winning ways in its home race. The team has won seven of its eight races at Fuji Speedway and expects to challenge for another victory on 11 September in the penultimate round of the 2022 season.