TOYOTA GAZOO Racing celebrates 100th race with 1-2 finish in Portimao

The TOYOTA GAZOO Racing team, partnered by Acronis, followed up its historic first victory in the Hypercar era at Spa Francorchamps with yet another 1-2 at the 8 Hours of Portimao.

And the result was again a repeat of Spa as the #8 GR010 HYBRID of Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley won an intense race-long battle with #7 team-mates and World Champions Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López to win by just 1.8s.

In winning the second round of the 2021 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), not only did the team take a 32nd victory from 100 races in the series, it also extended its World Championship lead to 22 points in the team standings.

“A one-two victory is the perfect way to celebrate our 100th World Championship race,” commented Hisatake Murata, Team President. “Thank you to the drivers, engineers and mechanics for doing a great job. We had to fight for this win and it was exciting to see the top three Hypercars battling for every tenth of a second. There was no room for mistakes from anyone; I was pleased to see us work as one team, giving our maximum without error.”

The race marked WEC’s first visit to Portugal and it was to be an intriguing tactical battle, the Alpine stopping more regularly but faster to fuel its lighter tank, meaning the lead changed hands regularly.

With 75 laps of the race completed, it was the Alpine that still led from the #7 and #8 GR010 HYBRIDs. And with Hartley being held up behind an LMP2 car, it cost him second place to Mike Conway but reclaimed the place by pitting a lap earlier.

“I think we all drove really well today. It could have gone a few different ways depending on race circumstances,” commented Conway. “Car #8 did a good fuel saving at the start of the race and went a little longer than us; they did well to open up their strategy.”

The duel continued as Hartley again got caught in traffic and lost out to the Englishman and when the first driver swap saw Kobayashi and Nakajima it was the former Japanese who led the race by 10 seconds from his compatriot as the Alpine lost out in the pit stops.

It appeared that it would be a full-on race to the chequered flay between the battling Toyota cars, until a safety car situation further bunching up the field with just under three hours remaining.

It brought the Alpine back into contention, and Nakajima lost a place to the rival team and pressured for the lead before again having to pit. And it was the #7 GR010 HYBRID that retook the lead but with Buemi seemingly saving fuel and biding his time.

Another full course yellow with 30 minutes to go saw Lopez pit for a final splash and dash, rejoining just three seconds behind Buemi’s car. Again the lead changed hands, Lopez taking the lead and pulling clear.

But with Buemi staying right behind the sister car, team protocol dictated that the #8 would pass again for the lead and a second win of the season to maintain its 100% winning record.

“I am thrilled that we managed to win the race today after a big fight,” said Buemi after taking the race win. “We were on a different strategy to car #7 and that made the difference. From the first stint onwards I was able to do a lap longer and still be in the fight. When the safety car came out, that helped us to avoid the splash of fuel later in the race and this was a key moment.

“I was trying to stretch the fuel and stay on the pace. Then we were unlucky with the full course yellow because otherwise car #7 would have been further behind after the splash, but that’s racing sometimes.”

Victory for Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Hartley means they now hold a 20-point advantage over #7 with four races remaining, the next round in Monza, Italy on 18 July.

“The Hypercar class is really coming to life and I expect the fans can enjoy many close fights in the next races,” added Murata. “After all our testing at Portimao, this was actually the first WEC race in Portugal. Thanks to everyone there for making the teams welcome and delivering a safe event. Now we look forward to Monza, where we won our first World Championship race in 1992. We hope to put on another good race and repeat that result.”

8 Hours of Portimao results:

1st          #8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing           300 laps

2nd        #7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing           +1.800secs

3rd         #36 Alpine (Negrao/Lapierre/Vaxivierre)                +1min 8.597secs

4th         #38 JOTA (Gonzalez/Da Costa/Davidson)               +4 laps

5th         #28 JOTA (Geleal/Vandoorne/Blomqvist)                +4 laps

6th         #22 United Autosports (Hanson/Scherer/Albuquerque)    +5 laps

Motorsport Technology