TOYOTA GAZOO Racing started the 2022 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) with a podium finish from an eventful and ultimately frustrating 1000 Miles of Sebring, which finished early due to a thunderstorm.
The GR010 HYBRID Hypercar’s 100% winning record was brought to an end at the start of its second season of competition. Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa started the campaign with a podium for second place following a valiant battle in their #8 GR010 HYBRID in a race won by Alpine.
But World Champions Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez did not see the chequered flag following an accident shortly before half distance. That put the #7 GR010 HYBRID out of the race, the first time that car has failed to finish since Le Mans 2017.
A difficult qualifying left the GR010 HYBRIDs in an unfamiliar grid position, with Sebastien starting fourth and Kamui seventh. That did not last long, however. Within four laps Sebastien moved up to third with Kamui just behind in fourth, joining an all-Hypercar battle for the podium positions.
When the two GR010 HYBRIDs made their first pit stops for a fuel top-up just before the hour mark, both overhauled the Glickenhaus. Second-placed Sebastien therefore led the chase of the leading Alpine, with Kamui following in the #7.
When the race entered its fourth hour, Jose had closed the gap on Brendon and, on lap 104, he overtook to move into second place. But facing a Balance of Performance deficit to the competition, neither GR010 HYBRID had a chance to challenge for the lead.
Midway through the fourth hour, the complexion of the race changed. Jose clashed with a lapped GT car and made contact with the tyre barrier. He attempted to bring the damaged car back to the pits but impacted heavily against the tyre barrier a few corners later, although thankfully he could leave the car unaided and unhurt.
The race was red flagged for 34 minutes as a result, which proved to be unfortunate timing for the #8 car. Brendon had to make an emergency fuel stop during the safety car restart before a full pit stop as soon as racing resumed a lap later. Ryo took over the #8 car to make his WEC race debut.
He completed an impressive double stint to extend the #8 car’s advantage over the third-placed Glickenhaus before Sebastien took over the wheel for a final stint, which began with a full course yellow for debris on track.
With just over an hour remaining, the threat of lightening caused a red flag and, despite a brief attempt to restart behind the safety car, the race never resumed. The 2022 season continues in Europe, with the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps on 7 May.
For more information, visit https://toyotagazooracing.com/wec/release/2022/rd01-race/.
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