Mike Conway and his #7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing teammates have been crowned World Champions after victory in Bahrain; rewarding them the 2019-20 FIA World Endurance Championship title in emphatic fashion.
Leading the championship for much of the season, the #7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing TS050 HYBRID crew of Mike, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López entered the weekend behind their #8 stablemates in the standings but knowing victory would secure them the World Championship.
In free practice, first blood went to the #8 car in the opening session with Sébastien Buemi half a second clear of Mike on the timing screens, after Mike’s best lap was hampered by traffic.
In the second free practice session, the two TOYOTAs swapped positions with the #7 taking top spot this time and setting the #7 crew up nicely ahead of Friday’s qualifying session.
Confident of beating the sister #8 car to pole position, the team entered qualifying in high spirits.
An excellent performance from Mike in the first part of the session put the #7 at the top of the timesheets with a 1:40.114, a clear second faster than Brendon Hartley in the #8.
A similarly impressive effort from José secured the #7 TS050 team their third pole position of the season and the best starting spot possible for the race on Saturday.
Mike took the start of the race on Saturday afternoon and immediately began to pull away from the #8 car, building a gap throughout his first stint. Handing over to Kamui, Mike had stretched out a gap of over 35 seconds to the sister car.
Kamui and José, continued to extend their advantage and the trio had managed to increase their lead by 75 seconds just after the halfway mark of the race.
A safety car to clear debris from the entrance to the pitlane wiped out their extensive lead and brought the #8 back into contention but, undeterred, the #7 crew swiftly set about rebuilding the gap.
Pulling away to a 30-second lead after three quarters of the race, another strong stint from Mike helped to increase the #7’s lead for over a minute when Kamui crossed the line after 263 laps to take the chequered flag - crowning Mike, Kamui and José and the #7 team World Champions.
Alongside taking his maiden World Championship title, the victory marked Mike’s seventh victory in the LMP1 era; with Mike also recording his eleventh FIA World Championship pole position.
The team’s triumph in Bahrain was the fourth win of the season for the #7 team and the 19th and final for the TS050 HYBRID, with the Le Mans Prototype category bowing out of the series ahead of the introduction of the Le Mans Hypercar specification in 2021.
Mike Conway (#7 TS050 HYBRID): “It’s a great feeling to be standing here as a World Champion at the end of a tough but fantastic season. I want to say a big thanks to the team for giving José, Kamui and me the chance to achieve this. The #7 crew and my team-mates did a perfect job throughout the season so this feels really good. I am a bit sad that this was the last race for the TS050 HYBRID but it finished perfectly for us.”
Image courtesy of TOYOTA GAZOO Racing.