7th October 2019
Mike Conway continued his impressive start to the 2019/20 FIA World Endurance Championship as he and the #7 TS050 finished the 6 Hours of Fuji in second place in a Toyota one-two.
Under the shadow of Mount Fuji, the #7 took on a new technical challenge as they worked out how to contend with the success handicap penalty it was given after taking victory in the opening race of the season at Silverstone.
The amount of hybrid boost, fuel energy per lap and fuel permitted per stint were all reduced according to the points gap over the lowest-scoring LMP1 car - equating to a 1.4-second lap time penalty.
Despite heavy morning rain, the opening free practices ran in dry conditions and saw the #7 TS050 HYBRID of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López finish the sessions in third and fifth respectively.
Qualifying on Saturday was up to Kamui and José but tt was not a straightforward qualifying session, with a red flag and a track limits violation combining to force a late dash to the flag for the #7. After José had set the second fastest time earlier in the session, Kamui took the fight to the sister #8 car but was judged to have left the track on his single flying lap, so it was deleted.
This result meant that the #7 TS050 lined the grid from second place, making it an all Toyota front-row at the team’s home race in Japan.
Getting the race underway for the #7 in Japan, Kamui lost out to Rebellion #1 through the first corners but, after a safety car due to an accident involving GT cars, on four consecutive occasions he had overtaken the Rebellion by the end of the lap, only to be re-passed before turn one. That was due to the Rebellion’s 40km/h top speed advantage, a consequence of fuel and hybrid boost restrictions imposed by the success handicap system on the TS050 HYBRID.
Once established at the front, both TS050 HYBRIDs steadily stretched their advantage, helped by the fastest pit work in the field, although the #7 was unable to challenge for the lead due to the 0.4secs-per-lap difference in success handicap.
With two hours gone, Mike was late into his first stint when light rain started and he was having to negotiate the tricky conditions on his slick tyres. An hour later, after Mike had handed the car over to José. the track surface became too slippery and the car came into to switch to the hybrid intermediate tyres.
When conditions improved enough for a switch back to slick tyres, the gap to the lead #8 car was reduced to less than 30secs with two hours remaining after the #8 was handed a drive-through penalty for exceeding the pit lane speed limit.
As the race entered the final 90 minutes, Kamui was giving chase in the #7 but unfortunately didn’t have the pace to reduce the gap further and crossed the finishing line in second place in a Toyota one-two.
With the one-two result the reverse of Silverstone, the lap time penalty will be identical for each Toyota cars as both TS050 HYBRIDs have the same number of World Championship points.
“A one-two finish was the goal so I’m happy to achieve that; it’s great for the team to win our home race. We would have loved to win the race with the #7 but it was always going to be difficult. We gave it our all and kept the sister car on its toes all the way through; that was the most we could do. With the changing conditions we had to stay sensible and avoid mistakes, and now we move on to the next one when we will be looking to fight for the win.”
Mike and his #7 teammates are now tied for first in the Drivers’ Championship with their Toyota stablemates in the #8 TS050 as the championship heads to the 4 Hours of Shanghai on 10 November.