TOYOTA Racing’s challenge in the Six Hours of Bahrain ended with an accident after an earlier technical issue had already denied the team a chance of victory in the sixth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Following the win two weeks ago in Sao Paulo, the #7 TS030 HYBRID of Alex Wurz and Nicolas Lapierre led after two hours and looked in a very strong position. However, the lights went out on that victory bid soon after.
WEC regulations require the illuminated number on the side of a car to function throughout the race. The #7 car’s panel failed on both sides, forcing the team to exchange the parts which cost seven minutes.
A charging recovery in the desert darkness took the team from sixth to third, setting the fastest lap of the race in the process.
But contact with another LMP1 car in traffic terminally damaged the suspension of the TS030 HYBRID with just over an hour remaining. Nicolas was forced to retire at the side of the track.
Earlier, in afternoon sunshine, Alex took the rolling start from third place and immediately made progress, brilliantly taking second at the first corner. He then used his speed in traffic to take the lead with 13 minutes on the clock.
Alex and Nicolas cemented the TS030 HYBRID’s lead during the opening two hours as the sun set, however the illuminated number issue struck to drop the #7 down the field.
Nicolas immediately improved the fastest lap of the race as he began a charge which Alex continued, the pair steadily closing the gap on the lead Audis before the incident in traffic brought progress to an end.
TOYOTA Racing’s next action comes at Fuji Speedway for the Six Hours of Mount Fuji on Sunday 14 October when Kazuki Nakajima will return to action in the #7 TS030 HYBRID, resuming his position alongside Alex and Nicolas.
TS030 HYBRID #7 (Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre)
Warm-up: 3rd (1min 48.701secs), 9 laps
Race: DNF, 144 laps, 6 pit stops. Fastest lap: 1min 47.128secs
Alex Wurz: “The speed was there. Today is just one of those days in sportscar racing when you learn how difficult this type of racing is. It makes us appreciate even more the victory in Brazil which went so smoothly and faultlessly. But all our work of free practice paid off in the race; the speed was there and that is encouraging. The rest was just bad luck. Now we focus on Fuji Speedway.”
Nicolas Lapierre: “After the safety car I was behind the #21 car. He had good top speed so I had to jump inside to overtake him and we made contact. If we were fighting for position I would say it is more my fault, but he had the blue flags. It’s disappointing to end the race like this because we had a chance for one more podium, not the position we hoped for but after the number illumination issue it was the best we could achieve. Unfortunately we didn’t finish which I don’t feel so great about. I think the race pace was very good again compared to the Audi; we were very competitive. We must keep working and get ready for Fuji Speedway as this will be an important race for us and I hope we can get a strong result there.”
Yoshiaki Kinoshita, Team President: “This was an exciting but extremely disappointing race because we were in a strong position to win. It was frustrating to lose the time in the pits due to the light issue, which seems to be caused by the heat. Even after that we were very quick and we had a podium in our hands. Unfortunately the car was too badly damaged in the impact in traffic and Nicolas could not bring it back to the pits for repairs. We had a big chance to win this race but motorsport can be cruel sometimes and today was one of those days. Audi did a great job so congratulations to them. We are looking forward to resuming the fight at Fuji Speedway in two weeks; our preparation begins tomorrow.”