August 28, 2012
TOYOTA Racing secured second place
TOYOTA Racing secured second place in the WEC 6 Hours of Silverstone in Great Britain.
Only eight months after the birth, and at its second race, TOYOTA TS030 HYBRID scored its first-ever podium finish at the 4th round of WEC, the 6 hours of Silverstone. The memorable runner-up position was made through a trouble-free and infallible performance.
As for the qualifying session run in the half-wet condition, TS030 had to settle for the 3rd grid because of its premature adoption of new tires decided for the fear of rainfall, however, its performance in the race was powerful from the very beginning. The starter driver, Alex Wurz, overtook Tom Kristensen's AUDI R18 Ultra, moved up to second place even before the first corner of the opening lap, and began to chase the leading AUDI R18 e-tron Quattro driven by Andre Lotterer.
At the 12th lap, Wurz caught Lotterer when he hit the traffic, seized the opportunity to take the leading position, and pushed even harder to stretch its margin.
If the truth be told, the refueling simulation done before the race has revealed that TOYOTA would need one more stop than AUDI, and it was apparent that they would have to open enough gap on the track to win the race.
Wurz duly gained 11-second margin, made its first stop at the end of 22nd lap, returned to the race with just the refueling, and again started to make the margin even wider. It was the end of the 45th lap when he made some 20-second margin and swapped to the second driver, Kazuki Nakajima. Kazuki also succeeded to extend the lead, however, the safety car was deployed at the 64th lap which made the hard-earned margin instantly wiped out.
The race was re-started at the 68th lap, and 2 laps later, Kazuki made his first pit stop, and began to stretch its lead over AUDIs. Kazuki, flawlessly keeping the top position, made his second stop at the end of the 94th lap and passed the baton on to the third driver, Nicolas Lapierre.
At the AUDI camp who enjoyed the longer stints than TOYOTA, R18 e-tron Quattro had got a stop & go penalty for contacting with a backmarker and R18 Ultra had to have an extra pit stop due to a rear puncture, which all seemed to make TOYOTA to have an upper hand.
Lapierre also showed a strong run and managed to gain 40-seconds gap. Should another 20-seconds be gained, the victory would be secured despite the handicap of one extra stop over AUDIs. At the end of 140th lap, when Lapierre made his stop, the last hope was entrusted to Wurz's hands.
Only a few laps later, two safety cars were deployed again. Unfortunately, the leading AUDI was behind the first safety car and TOYOTA was stuck behind the second safety car, which made the gap between the two cars unfathomably wide. TOYOTA TS030 HYBRID thus deprived of its last chance of the come-from-behind victory settled for the 2nd place.
However, the trouble-free and infallible performance for six long hours both at the man and the car was a big fruit for TOYOTA. The runner-up just at their second race splitting into the two AUDIs would also give TOYOTA a great source of confidence for the future.