TOYOTA GAZOO Racing. World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Imola Imola Circuit, Italy 18th to 21st April 2024

WEC News: Toyota Hypercar wins 6 Hours of Imola

The No.7 Toyota Gazoo Racing GR010 Hybrid Hypercar of Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Nyck de Vries won a dramatic and action-packed FIA WEC 6 Hours of Imola.

Toyota took victory on Ferrari’s home turf again after rain brought drama and uncertainty in tire strategy in the final two hours, which saw epic battles for the lead and other top 10 Hypercar places.

But Kobayashi managed to repel several changes, notably from the No.6 Porsche Penske 963 Hypercar which in the hands of Kevin Estre hustled the Toyota to the checkered flag with the two covered by just 2-seconds at the flag (7 seconds after penalty applied).

A total 73,600 spectators attended the second round of the WEC as the World Championship made its debut at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari and the first race on European soil this year.

Porsche Penske Motorsport’s Estre, Andre Lotterer and Laurens Vanthoor kept their title points lead after another strong performance for second position. Rounding out the podium was Matt Campbell, Frederic Makowiekci and Michael Christensen to make it a double podium for the German manufacturer.

#7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing. World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Imola, Imola Circuit, Italy

Ferrari AF Corse were on course to win today’s race but a tire strategy decision when rain fell during the race’s fourth hour ultimately led to the No. 50 and No. 51 Ferrari 499P Hypercars dropping down the leaderboard. Nicklas Nielsen, Miguel Molina and Antonio Fuoco clawed back up the leaderboard to finish fourth, Fuoco passing Hartley when the Toyota he shared with Sebastien Buemi and Rio Hirakawa lost time at the Tamburello chicane on the final lap.

BMW M Team WRT scored its best WEC finish so far after Rene Rast, Robin Frijns and Sheldon van der Linde crossed the checkered flag in sixth place, the crew hindered by a late drive-through-penalty following a pit infringement.  AF Corse Ferrari’s No. 51 Hypercar finished the race seventh, one spot ahead of the No. 83 AF Corse Ferrari which lost time earlier in the race due to a penalty as a result of speeding under a FCY.

The new-look Peugeot 9X8 driven by Nico Mueller, Mikken Jensen and Jean-Eric Vergne finished ninth overall, taking points on the squad’s first race with the addition of a rear wing. Cadillac’s Racing Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn rounded out the top ten in the Cadillac V-Series.R.

Kamui Kobayashi (Team Principal and driver, Toyota 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 tires in the rain. We made the right call to switch tires and build a gap, then we kept good pace on the wet tires. 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, Toyota 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, Toyota 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.”

LMGT3 victory goes to No.31 BMW of Team WRT

No.31 Team WRT BMW M4 of Augusto Farfus, Darren Leung and Sean Gelael celebrated a famous victory of judging conditions perfectly to take LMGT3 victory, the first class win for the Bavarian marque in WEC

They beat off their sister BMW the No.46 car of Maxime Martin, Valentino Rossi and Ahmed Al Harthy, who made it a BMW M4 1-2 formation finish after they were forced to serve a late race penalty

Manthey PureRxcing Porsche 911 LMGT3 extended lead in the points table with third position as Joel Sturm, Aliaksandr Malykhin and Klaus Bachler continued their strong start to the season.

Farfus then pulled out a gap before being able to relax a little when Martin was forced to serve a drive-through penalty for teammate Valentino Rossi earlier speeding under a virtual full course yellow period.

In an audacious strategy that involved staying on slick Goodyear tyres despite full wet conditions in the third sector of the Imola track, the No.31 car was able to assert its authority in the final two hours. Farfus wrested the lead from Maxime Martin in the penultimate hour after putting a well-judged move on the Belgian at the Variante Alta chicane.

The experienced Brazilian utilized his Goodyears perfectly and won the category by a solid 22-seconds to ensure that both he and BMW took their first ever WEC win. Sean Gelael became a winner in two classes after previous LMP2 success, while Leung celebrated his debut win in only his second ever WEC start.

The podium was completed by the Manthey PureRxcing squad of Joel Sturm, Aliaksandr Malykhin and Klaus Bachler who all continue their strong start to the season.

The Qatar 1812kms winners led the race from pole position in the hands of Malykhin but they lost the lead when they decided to change to wet tires when the rain arrived at the start of the fifth hour.

That bumped them down to third place but they still retain the championship points lead after scooping 16 points for third place and Malykhin’s Saturday pole position.

The No.55 VISTA AF Corse Ferrari 296 LMGT3 of Simon Mann, Francois Heriau and Alessio Rovera claimed their best result of the season with fourth place, after leading for a short period in Heriau’s hands in the second hour.

The top six was completed by the Heart of Racing Aston Martin of Ian James, Daniel Mancinelli and Alex Riberas in fifth and the No.59 United Autosports McLaren of Joshua Caygill, Marino Sato and Nicolas Pino McLaren.

Race Results

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