Imola victory for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing

TORONTO, Ontario (April 22, 2024) – TOYOTA GAZOO Racing returned to winning ways and conquered a dramatic 6 Hours of Imola after an incredible team effort in the second round of the 2024 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).

Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Nyck de Vries took a tense victory in the #7 GR010 HYBRID in changing conditions thanks to faultless driving and intelligent strategy on a day of twists and turns among the 19-strong Hypercar field.

Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa completed a successful day for the team by making up positions during the race to finish a strong fifth in their #8 GR010 HYBRID.

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s first victory of the season closed the gap to Porsche to just nine points in the Manufacturers’ World Championship heading to round three at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium on 11 May. The #7 crew are now second in the drivers’ standings, 16 points behind the leaders.

Having started sixth, Mike showed his fighting spirit in the opening laps when he made a move for fifth. But, on the narrow Imola circuit, overtaking was very difficult, something Sébastien also discovered from eighth.

The team used smart strategy and pace around their perfectly executed pit stops to gain positions. Mike moved into the top three before handing the #7 to Nyck at the first driver changes, around the two-hour mark. Sébastien was also on the move and Ryo took over the #8 in fifth.

Nyck put intense pressure on the leading Ferrari pair before rain and different strategies in the fourth hour threw the race wide open. Nyck made an opportunistic move to take second immediately following a full course yellow and moments later took the lead when the #51 Ferrari pitted, just prior to safety car.

Rain intensified during the safety car period, particularly in the final sector. When the green flags waved, the GR010 HYBRIDs struggled for grip on the wet track and immediately pitted for wet tyres. It proved to be a masterstroke and both cars soon lapped significantly faster than their Hypercar rivals.

After most Hypercars also pitted for wet tyres, Kamui emerged into a lead of more than 20 seconds and Brendon was up to third as the race entered its final 90 minutes.

With an hour remaining, both cars made their penultimate pit stops and reverted to slick Michelin tyres. Other rivals pitted as well and Kamui returned to the front, leading a pair of Porsches, while Brendon crossed a gravel trap twice on his out laps as the tyres struggled to come up to temperature on the damp track.

Finally on hot tyres, Brendon put in a string of fast laps to move up to fourth, and closed on the third-placed #5. But with less fuel on board than their rivals, both GR010 HYBRIDs had to drive efficiently going into the final 30 minutes, setting up a tense showdown for victory.

Kamui fought valiantly to hold on to the lead under intense pressure to win in Italy for the second successive season, by 7.081secs from the #6 Porsche. Brendon and the #8 crew had to settle for fifth place after being overtaken by the #50 Ferrari on the final lap.


Kamui Kobayashi (Team Principal and driver, car #7):
“It was a very tough race and to win here is absolutely phenomenal. Our car was not the fastest this week but the team performed so well. Mike and Nyck both did a fantastic job to bring the car into contention before I took over. There was big pressure from the start of my stint; I was in the lead on slick tyres in the rain. We made the right call to switch tyres and build a gap, then we kept good pace on the wet tyres. We were not sure about fuel so we started to save energy and I gave everything, it was very tough. The team did a great effort in terms of strategy and that gave us the chance to fight for the win. Thanks to the everyone for their fantastic work here.”

Mike Conway (Driver, car #7):
“It was really tense all the way to the end. Kamui did a great job at the end to stay ahead whilst saving energy. As always the pressure doesn’t affect him; I think my heart rate in the garage was higher than his in the car. Nyck did a stellar stint as well. At the start I stayed out of trouble and tried to move forwards. I had a lot of fun and I enjoyed my first time racing here. The crew did a great job in the pits and the strategy couldn’t have been any better. Congratulations to the whole team and everyone at Toyota.”

Nyck de Vries (Driver, car #7):
“It’s great to be back on the top step of the podium; it’s been a while for me. It’s nice to share that with my team-mates. I am very happy and proud to share the car with Kamui and Mike, so I really want to thank them and the whole team for their outstanding job. The performance was phenomenal, all the strategy calls were correct, every stint was strong, and no one put a foot wrong. They executed the race perfectly and I think we really deserve this victory.”

Sébastien Buemi (Driver, car #8):
“Congratulations to car #7 for their performance and the win. Obviously for the team it is a fantastic comeback, from the challenges we faced in Qatar to winning here. On car #8 we had a difficult race. Starting eighth made my stint more challenging because it was difficult to overtake. In the end we finished fifth, so we made up positions and we were in the fight for the podium. I’m a bit disappointed the result is not better but it’s a great day for the team and we will work hard to come back stronger in Spa.”

Brendon Hartley (Driver, car #8):
“Massive congratulations to the team for taking a victory here on Ferrari’s home turf. They were clearly faster but car #7 played the right cards at the right moment and drove well to finish on top. It was a tougher day for us on car #8. We were very close to the podium places and I loved driving around here. In the final stint we had to save energy and we lost a position on the last lap which was frustrating. In the end it was not quite the result we wanted but it was an amazing team performance.”

Ryo Hirakawa (Driver, car #8):
“Congratulations to everyone on car #7 for winning the race, and for the team to be back in the centre of the podium again. I don’t think any of us expected to win the race but the team delivered a great performance and extracted everything from the car. So, I am very happy for the team to achieve this result. On our car it was a bit disappointing to lose fourth on the last lap but that can happen in racing. We need to take it and return stronger in the next races.”

6 Hours of Imola – Race Result
1st #7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing 205 laps
2nd #6 Porsche Penske (Estre/Lotterer/Vanthoor) +7.081secs
3rd #5 Porsche Penske (Campbell/Christensen/Makowiecki) +25.626secs
4th #50 Ferrari AF Corse (Fuoco/Molina/Nielsen) +31.469secs
5th #8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +33.777secs
6th #20 BMW M Team WRT (Van der Linde/Frijns/Rast) +1 lap

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