This weekend saw Mike Conway head to Portimão as he looked to continue his perfect start to the 2023 WEC campaign with TOYOTA GAZOO Racing. Starting on the front row, it looked set to be a promising weekend for #7 car before race officials ordered the car to the pit lane for a driveshaft sensor to be changed. The delay all but ended the chances of victory but the team battled hard to the end before finishing the race in P9.
The early signs were positive for the #7 car and it looked like they were going to build on their impressive display from the opening race weekend in Sebring. The GR010 HYBRID's showed strong pace throughout the practice sessions and qualifying, where Mike's teammate Kamui Kobayashi achieved a P2 finish for the #7, resulting in a front row start for the team.
Mike was elected to start the race and there were more signs of positivity as he was able to overtake the #8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing sister car to take the lead of the race at the first corner.
Once in the lead, Mike kept his composure and continued to show good pace as he built up a five second lead over his rivals.
However, 80 minutes in and the race took a dramatic turn when race officials instructed the #7 GR010 HYBRID to return to the pit lane to change a driveshaft sensor. Hypercar regulations state that as performance is measured by standardised torque sensors on the driveshaft, the sensors must function properly at all times.
The mechanics from both the #7 and #8 cars showed great teamwork and experience as they worked in tandem, managing to complete the change in just 11 minutes.
This delay had all but ended the chances of victory for Mike and the #7 car which rejoined the race in P34, 7 laps down. Despite this, they recovered well and continued to battle hard to the end, overtaking a number of rival cars.
Mike, who set the fastest lap of the race in the early stages, completed the last stint at the wheel of the #7 car and finished the race in P9. The result means that Mike and the #7 team picked up two championship points and sit third in the overall driver standings.
"Unfortunately it was a tough day for car #7 with the issue which put us out of contention. We came back and at least scored a couple of points but at the end of the day it was a disappointing outcome. Congratulations to everyone on car #8. They drove a great race and deservedly got the win, which is nice for the team. It’s a good day for one side of the garage and a bad one for the other but we will come back fighting in Spa, and Le Mans is coming up fast."
The WEC season resumes in just two weeks with the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps on Saturday 29 April, the final round before the centenary edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours on 10-11 June.