Monza beckons for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing targets a return to winning ways when the 2023 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) resumes at another legendary venue on 8-9 July for the 6 Hours of Monza.
Just four weeks ago, the team’s five-year winning run at the Le Mans 24 Hours came to an end in an exciting, incident-packed race in front of 320,000 spectators during a memorable celebration of 100 years of racing at La Sarthe.

This week, the team heads to Monza in northern Italy, home ground of Le Mans winners Ferrari, determined to stand on the top step of the podium once again to reignite its World Championship title defence.

Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa finished second at Le Mans in their #8 GR010 HYBRID after an epic battle for victory. Despite narrowly missing the win, they extended their drivers’ World Championship lead to 25 points with three races remaining.

An unfortunate Le Mans retirement for Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez, after their #7 GR010 HYBRID was hit by another car, means their title chances are all but over, at 41 points behind, but they aim for a third win of the season to move up the rankings and contribute to the team’s challenge.

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing leads Ferrari by 18 points in the manufacturers’ title race and now takes the battle to the Italian marque’s home ground, the 5.793km Autodromo Nazionale Monza, where Hypercars average close to 220km/h over a lap, the second highest of the year after Le Mans.

Monza has a special place in Toyota’s motorsport history as the location for its first victory in a World Championship race, in 1992 when Geoff Lees and Hitoshi Ogawa won the 1000km of Monza in the TS010 group C car. Since returning to endurance racing with a hybrid-powered prototype in 2012, the team has raced twice at Monza. The #7 crew took victory in 2021 while last year the #8 was the top GR010 HYBRID in second.

The class of 2023 will begin their challenge on Friday, with two 90-minute practice sessions. After a final morning practice, Saturday sees the grid determined in qualifying and the race itself begins on Sunday at 12.30 CEST.

Kamui Kobayashi (Team Principal and driver, car #7):
“At Le Mans, we did all we could as a team. We got the maximum performance from the car, and the drivers gave everything. We will do the same in Monza and push to get a better result. Now our big priority is to win both World Championships again and it will be a close fight with Ferrari. We have the upper hand at the moment in terms of the points, but they had a faster car in the last two races. I think it will be difficult for us this weekend, but we will never give up, we will keep fighting and pushing for every tenth of a second. I am sure there will be another big crowd and a great atmosphere, so I am looking forward to this race.”

Mike Conway (Driver, car #7):
“It’s good to be racing again just a few weeks after Le Mans, so we can put all that behind us. After what happened at Le Mans, the World Championship seems out of reach this season for our car unfortunately, but that only simplifies the task in the remaining three races. We want to rack up more wins this season, starting at Monza, and we will be pushing hard to get back on the top step of the podium. I am looking forward to getting started again.”

Jose Maria Lopez (Driver, car #7):
“I really enjoy racing at Monza. It is an old-school track with some fast corners and a great atmosphere. It’s quite like Le Mans in that regard. I have had a lot of strong races at Monza, early in my career and in WEC as well. Our victory there in 2021 was one of the big reasons we could win the drivers’ World Championship that season, and last year our car was strong until we had an incident whilst leading. It will be tougher than ever this year, but I am optimistic.”

Sebastien Buemi (Driver, car #8):
“I am looking forward to racing at Monza, particularly this year because I think the atmosphere will be more special than ever. I have spent a lot of time in Italy during my career, so I enjoy going back there and meeting the fans. I guess they are probably cheering for a different team this year, but it’s still a pleasure to race in front of such an enthusiastic crowd. We are in a close fight for the World Championship and every race will be important, so we will be giving everything this weekend.”

Brendon Hartley (Driver, car #8):
“Pretty quickly after Le Mans our focus moved towards the World Championship battle and the whole team is fired up for the final three races of the season, starting in Monza. It’s not going to be easy, because we have seen how quick Ferrari is, but we showed our fighting spirit at Le Mans, and we are determined to stand on the top step of the podium again. We know we need to execute a perfect weekend and we’re ready for the challenge.”

Ryo Hirakawa (Driver, car #8):
“I am happy to get behind the wheel of the GR010 HYBRID again so soon after Le Mans, which was a difficult race. That’s behind us now and we will come back stronger. I know Monza quite well; we finished second there in the #8 car last year and I also won a European Le Mans Series race there a few years ago. It’s fun to drive, very high speed, and I think it should suit us. We will keep working hard to continually improve the car during the weekend to give ourselves the chance to fight at the front.”

Topic: Press release summary

Japan – Double Monza podium for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing

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.

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