Spa victory for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing earned its first win of the 2022 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season after a dramatic, weather-affected 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.
World Champions Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López, driving the #7 GR010 HYBRID, overcame a strong challenge from Hypercar competitors, as well as the notorious Ardennes weather, to win round two of the 2022 season, the final event before the Le Mans 24 Hours.
The team celebrated its sixth consecutive victory at Spa-Francorchamps with the #7 bouncing back from an accident at Sebring to make it seven wins out of eight races since the GR010 HYBRID was introduced at Spa in 2021.
Unfortunately, only one GR010 HYBRID reached the chequered flag at Spa. Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa were leading the race in their #8 car when an issue on the hybrid system forced its retirement after 90 minutes.
The race had started full of promise for the #8, with Sébastien moving up from fourth on the grid to second on the first lap. Mike was close behind in third, having briefly lost a spot when he was boxed in at the exit of the first corner.
On lap 16, the GR010 HYBRIDs hit the front, both overtaking the race-leading Glickenhaus on the same lap. Sébastien therefore led in the #8, but the race changed quickly when rain began to fall around the hour mark, followed by an LMP2 accident which caused a red flag.
After a 25-minute delay, the race resumed behind the safety car but the leading #8 stopped on the side of the track. As Sébastien stepped out of the car to retire, the rain got heavier and Mike brought the #7 into the pits for wet tyres, dropping to third.
Conditions worsened and caused further interruptions, including two more red flag periods, until the race restarted properly with just over two hours remaining, and Kamui running in second. He wasted little time in overtaking the #31 WRT for the lead as the rain stopped and track conditions started to improve.
Inside the last hour-and-a-half, José took the wheel of the #7, now on hybrid intermediate tyres, for the final stint. He resumed in the lead of a close battle for victory among the three Hypercar competitors until three full course yellows late in the race disrupted the fight at the front.
José controlled the final stages of the race as track conditions improved continuously and he crossed the line after six hours to win by 27.473secs from the #36 Alpine.
The team now makes the short journey back to Cologne to prepare for the highlight of the WEC season, the Le Mans 24 Hours on 11-12 June when it will challenge for a fifth consecutive victory.