TOYOTA Racing suffered a disappointment in the Six Hours of Shanghai, leaving China with a second place when a better result was within touching distance.
Alex Wurz and Nicolas Lapierre, in the #7 TS030 HYBRID, started from pole position and were firmly in the fight for victory when they lost valuable time due to a puncture in the final two hours. They recovered to finish second.
The #8 car of Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Stéphane Sarrazin looked on course for victory. With 90 minutes remaining the #8 held a comfortable lead but a damaged suspension forced it into retirement.
Nicolas started in pole position in the #7 and held the advantage into turn one as Anthony, at the wheel of the #8, put heavy pressure on the second-placed Audi.
After 18 minutes of duelling, Anthony took second and closed on the #7 as the pair of TS030 HYBRIDs fought through lapped traffic.
Anthony pitted first and used new tyres to good effect; when Nicolas made his stop a lap later, the #7 resumed in second, just behind its sister car.
The order stayed like that as Alex took the wheel of the #7 while first Stéphane then Sébastien had their stints in the #8.
In the final third of the race, the #7 suffered an unlucky break when a rear left puncture forced Nicolas into an extra stop just three laps after a scheduled fuel and tyre change. That cost valuable seconds which proved decisive in the end.
Just a few minutes later there was more disappointment for the team; the #8, with Anthony at the wheel, suffered a suspension issue which forced it into retirement.
The #7 was still in the fight for victory and made its final stop, for fuel only, with 35 minutes to go. Alex emerged in the lead but without the optimum tyres due to the unscheduled change after the puncture, the #7 dropped to second.
TS030 HYBRID #7 (Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre)
Race: 2nd, 190 laps (+15.374), 8 pit stops. Fastest lap: 1min 49.383secs
Alex Wurz: “The race was disappointing for us. We had the wrong compound of tyres in the last stint due to the puncture, which forced us to use a set more than originally planned, so I knew it was going to be really tough. I was hoping the track temperature would drop much faster than it did. I knew it would be a very tough run to the flag and I couldn’t keep the #1 Audi behind me. That’s racing. We are having a strong end to the season performance-wise so big thanks to the team, who keep on pushing. We have one more race to show we can win again.”
Nicolas Lapierre: “At the beginning we thought we were in a great position because we had a nice gap and we knew on the fuel strategy that we were looking good. Then we had the puncture which happened at the beginning of the lap so it cost quite a lot of time to bring the car back. In the end it’s racing. Probably this was our strongest race weekend so far in terms of performance but we didn’t get the win. We still have Bahrain to get it.”
TS030 HYBRID #8 (Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi, Stéphane Sarrazin)
Race: DNF, 143 laps, 6 pit stops. Fastest lap: 1min 49.106 secs
Anthony Davidson: “It has been a heartbreaking day for us. It’s rare that you have a race in the bag from so early on but we had it completely under control after the puncture of car #7. I was just conserving the car then braking into turn six, something broke on the suspension. I made it back to the pits but unfortunately it was irreparable. It is massively disappointing. We would have won this race fair and square. Sometimes motorsport bites you hard and it obviously wasn’t meant to be today.”
Sébastien Buemi: “We showed great performance this weekend. We were leading the race for most of the time until the problem. Our performance really showed we have made a lot of progress since we introduced the high-downforce package. We would have won the race if we had no problems. I am very disappointed but these things can happen. I want to thank the team for their hard work; bringing two cars here was a big effort. Hopefully the team can finish the year on a high in Bahrain.”
Stéphane Sarrazin: “It was an amazing weekend until the last 90 minutes of the race. The team started very well with the qualifying and we showed amazing pace. We have improved a lot since the beginning of the year compared to Audi. To be leading the race like that was really good. It is a pity we had this problem but the team did a great job this weekend. The car was amazingly good, my team-mates did a great job. It is a pity we finished like that because everyone in the team deserved the win.”
Yoshiaki Kinoshita, Team President: “We have waited a long time but today was the day we could show the true performance of our high-downforce package in race conditions. The timing of the puncture was very unlucky. If you have it at the beginning of the race you have more chance to adjust the strategy. But when it happens in the last two stints there’s not a lot you can do to minimise the damage. The suspension problem was maybe due to contact with another car at the beginning; we are investigating exactly why this happened. Finally, I’d like to offer our congratulations to Tom (Kristensen), Allan (McNish) and Löic (Duval) on becoming world champions; they have been fast and fair opponents all season.”
(Text: Toyota / Image: Toyota)