Toyota Gazoo Racing completed their history-making Hypercar season in style with a one-two victory in the 8 Hours of Bahrain on Saturday (6 November), a day of destiny for the 2021 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) drivers’ crown
The celebrations were shared by British driver Mike Conway, who became the series’ world champion driver for the second year in succession, alongside his team-mates in the No7 GR010 Hybrid car, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López.
“It feels really good to join the club of double World Champions,” said Conway. “To win the title two times in a row is an amazing feeling, and finally getting Le Mans this year really does top off the season. I’m proud to achieve this with Kamui and José who have done an amazing job all year, just like everyone on our crew.”
An emotional finale to the WEC season saw Kazuki Nakajima bring the curtain down on his glittering endurance racing career in fitting style with victory in the No8 GR010 Hybrid he shares with Sébastien Buemi and Brendon Hartley.
Le Mans winners Conway, Kobayashi and López retained the drivers’ title by finishing Saturday’s race, the sixth and final round of the season, in second place.
Kobayashi has become Japan’s first two-time World Champion on four wheels while López is only the second Argentinian to win five FIA World Championships, following in the footsteps of the great Juan Manuel Fangio.
Both GR010 Hybrids displayed a tribute to Nakajima, who has earned his status as an endurance racing legend by winning Le Mans three times. He took 17 victories from his 59 WEC races and won the 2018-2019 World Championship title alongside Buemi and Fernando Alonso.
On a day of milestones, Toyota Gazoo Racing became the first team to win every race in a WEC season. They extended their unprecedented winning run to nine, in their 70th event since entering the series in 2012. With last week’s victory, also in Bahrain, they had already secured their fourth teams’ World Championship.
Despite clean sweeps in all sessions of the two Bahrain races, the GR010 Hybrids played catch-up on the opening laps when the No36 Alpine stole an early lead. But some exciting wheel-to-wheel racing put the Toyotas in front and they never looked back.
As the race continued into the night, the No8 car established an ever-stronger grip at the front, edging clear of the No7. In the sixth hour, the lead was reduced slightly when a replacement steering wheel was required for the No8, following occasional gearshift issues. That cost only a few seconds at a scheduled pit stop to rectify the problem.
Nakajima took the wheel of the No8 car for the final stint and his last laps in the WEC. A journey which started with the roll-out of the TS030 Hybrid in January 2012, ended when he took the chequered flag to win by 7.351secs from López, whose second place delivered another world title to the No7 crew.
The racing season may have ended but the action in Bahrain continued on Sunday, when seven-time World Rally Champion Sébastien Ogier was set to drive a GR010 Hybrid for the first time in the WEC rookie test. Rising LMP2 star Charles Milesi was also lined up to test for the team.
Akio Toyoda, Team Founder: “Kamui, Mike, José, Kazuki, Séb, Brendon and everyone in the team. I didn’t say it last week, but first of all, congratulations on the team championship! We won all six races in the first year of Hypercar. But I know they were not easy wins. I think that the GR010 Hybrid was never a ’car that can be driven with peace of mind‘ or a ’car that seems easy to drive‘ for the driver. The car which did not win the race continued to run with some trouble. At Le Mans, we had similar trouble that occurred in the previous race. We could not fix the problem in time, however, we were able to run through with the tremendous efforts of the drivers and team. I am really grateful that these two cars have become champion cars. Thanks guys.
“Kamui, Mike and José. Congratulations on winning Le Mans! Congratulations on the Drivers’ Championship. I couldn’t say both before, so I am relieved to say it now. It is very nice!
“Let me say two more words of gratitude for the 2021 World Endurance Championship. One is thanks to the partners who supported the battle in the new Hypercar class and the fans who continued to support us. Thank you for fighting with us this season as well. The other is… thanks to Kazuki, who will step out of the driver’s seat in WEC after this victory in Bahrain. Kazuki has been helping this challenge since 2012. During those 10 years, around 18,600 miles have been raced. It may be a longer distance considering the 30-hour driving tests before the season. Thank you for continuing to train Toyota’s hybrids on the really tough road of endurance racing. I think that the evolution of this hybrid has a great deal to do with the world today and the world from now on. Thank you for this 18,600 mile battle. And if you could drive 8.46 miles longer in 2016… I also remember that. However, I think it is also Kazuki who made us, Toyota, stronger, including at that time. Thank you so much for 10 years.
“From now on
“To make ever-better cars for Toyota
“For the automobile industry
“I want you to fight together. Please continue to help us.”
PS: “I heard that Anthony (Davidson), who was also unable to run 8.46 miles longer in 2016, will retire this season. When we won for the first time at Le Mans, he was not in the position of a driver, but he supported the team in the shadows and contributed to the victory. I would like to thank Anthony again.”
Koji Sato, Gazoo Racing Company President: “Big congratulations to Mike, Kamui and José for becoming World Champions again, and thanks for an amazing season. They finally won Le Mans for the first time and now they are double World Champions, which is a deserved reward for their strong performances. Today was a perfect race and it was very emotional to see Kazuki on the top step of the podium for his last race. Everyone at Toyota Gazoo Racing is so grateful to him for his huge contribution to the WEC project over the last 10 years. Sébastien and Brendon fought hard alongside him all season and I am pleased they could celebrate after a hot and exhausting double-header event. To win every race in the first-ever Hypercar season is a big credit to the team, who overcame many challenges in 2021 by showing their team spirit. With this great result, the season is over, but we’re ready for next year, when more fierce battles are expected. We will continue to work hard to make ever-better cars to show our fans a stronger team on track next year.”
Mike Conway (GR010 Hybrid No7): “It feels really good to join the club of double World Champions. To win the title two times in a row is an amazing feeling, and finally getting Le Mans this year really does top off the season. I’m proud to achieve this with Kamui and José who have done an amazing job all year, just like everyone on our crew. We were pushed as hard as ever by car No8 so well done to them today. It’s always a pleasure to race with them and it’s going to be strange not to have Kazuki behind the wheel of that car. It’s been great fun working with him.”
Kamui Kobayashi (GR010 Hybrid No7): “I am really happy with this result. It’s hard to compare the two World Championship wins but it feels great to win again with Mike and José. Thanks to everyone who helped us achieve this, particularly the big support we got from Japan. Car No8 did a great job this year and were always very difficult to beat. It has been a really close competition, but very fair. We respect each other and fight properly. Behind the scenes there is a lot of good team work to maximise the team performance. Kazuki did a brilliant job here in Bahrain; he stayed motivated and concentrated. I grew up with him in racing I am very happy he finished his WEC career with a win.”
José María López (GR010 Hybrid No7): “I want to congratulate the whole team, car No8 and everyone back in Higashi-Fuji and Cologne where there are many people working behind the scenes. I couldn’t do this without them, and without Mike and Kamui. I honestly feel very humble because I am so lucky to be part of this group and achieve championships and wins together. It’s a great privilege so thank you everyone who has been involved. We’re going to miss Kazuki a lot; he is such a great guy and a fantastic driver. Séb, Kazuki and Brendon have been so competitive this season and they pushed us hard. They deserved the win today.”
Sébastien Buemi (GR010 Hybrid No): “I am happy with this result to end the season. To celebrate a win with Kazuki in his last WEC race is very special and he deserves this moment. We did everything we could today. Our set-up was much kinder on the tyres compared to the first Bahrain race and we managed to save some energy to open up some possibilities on strategy. Then we had good pace and were just a little bit faster. Congratulations to car No7 for the title. They did a better job this year and are deserving champions.”
Kazuki Nakajima (GR010 Hybrid No8): “I am very happy to finish my WEC career like this and I am very lucky to have such great team-mates. As a team we fight very hard until the end and we never give up. In the final laps it was difficult to keep my emotions under control and focus on driving. But I managed to get to the chequered flag and it was a fantastic result; we won the race, No7 won the championship and Toyota Gazoo Racing won the teams’ title. I am really happy and touched by the reaction. Big, big thanks to all my team-mates, everyone in Toyota Gazoo Racing and all those who supported me over the last years.”
Brendon Hartley (GR010 Hybrid No8): “It felt good to win the race today, particularly after a tough race here last week. We came back much stronger this week. I want to say massive congratulations to Mike, Kamui and José for winning the drivers’ championship. It was hard fought all season between the two cars and they just came out on top. Also big congratulations to Kazuki for finishing his WEC career with a win and for everything he has achieved. I am sad that it is his last race for us, but I’m so pleased for him to finish on a high, having been on such strong form these last two weeks.”
8 Hours of Bahrain results:
1st No8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing 247 laps
2nd No7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +7.351secs
3rd No36 Alpine (Negrao/Lapierre/Vaxivierre) +6 laps
4th No31 Team WRT (Frijns/Habsburg/Milesi) +7 laps
5th No38 JOTA (Gonzalez/Da Costa/Davidson) +7 laps
6th No28 JOTA (Galael/Vandoorne/Blomqvist) +7 laps