Mike Conway and his #7 crew in their GR010 HYBRID claimed victory in the Six Hours of Fuji after an epic Hypercar battle with Porsche, earning maximum points and confirming TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s fifth consecutive manufacturers’ World Championship on home soil.
The sixth round of the 2023 campaign saw Mike and his TOYOTA GAZOO Racing team head to the picturesque Fuji Speedway as they looked to continue their winning streak from the previous round at Monza.
Saturday saw success for Mike and his #7 teammates, as Kamui Kobayashi set the new lap record around the iconic circuit, to take pole by 0.624secs from the sister #8 GR010 HYBRID.
In front of a record 57,400 crowd, at the start, Mike was pushed down to third before a first-lap safety car brought the racing to a pause. Shortly after, when racing resumed, Mike was then edged off track whilst fighting for second and dropped to fourth.
After the race had settled, Mike would showcase his stellar pace in the car to begin making up ground to his competitors in front and he would soon find himself on the tail of the two Ferraris. An exciting battle between World Championship contenders TOYOTA GAZOO Racing and Ferrari saw the GR010 HYBRIDs come out on top. Mike would fight his way past the two Ferraris and, when the leading #6 Porsche pitted for fuel, the #7 led from the #8 after the first hour.
The pressure at the front of the field increased after the first driver changes, which came around the two-hour mark. With Mike handing driving duties over to his teammate, José María López, who immediately set the fastest lap of the race and closed to within striking distance of the #6 Porsche during a charging stint.
José relentlessly looked for a way past the leader and soon the top three were separated by barely a second and after an intense lead battle, the #7 car would be passed by the #8 for the lead at the end of the fourth hour.
A few minutes later, the final driver changes would occur, with Kamui Kobayashi getting behind the wheel for the races closing stages. Kamui would set blistering lap times and was the fastest car on track and soon took the lead, stretching his advantage in the process.
Kamui would control the final stages and took the chequered flag after 229 laps with a one-two finish to earn TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s ninth win in 10 races at Fuji Speedway and extend the team’s unbeaten streak which stretches back to 2016.
The victory would see TOYOTA GAZOO Racing claim maximum points with a one-two finish, and with it, their fifth consecutive manufacturers’ World Championship.
It also marked Mike's 21st WEC victory and his third at Fuji Speedway where he has seen great success with 7 trips to the podium. The win also marked the #7 crew's fourth victory of the 2023 campaign as they continue their championship charge heading to the final round.
Victory for Mike and the #7 crew means they now sit 15 points behind the leading #8 crew with a maximum of 39 points on offer at the final round of the WEC season in Bahrain on the 4th of November.
Reflecting on another successful weekend, Mike said:
“It’s a great day for the team. We came here wanting a one-two to wrap up the manufacturers’ championship and we did that. It wasn’t easy, it was hard fought, and we had to really scrap for position but it’s nice to get the result. José and Kamui did an awesome job. It was a tough race for all of us and each of us had moments when it was difficult to overtake. Our pace looked close with Porsche, so we knew we had a real race on our hands. We had to bide our time and once Kamui got clear it was okay. All our car crew and engineers did a stellar job, not just this weekend but all season. Congratulations to everyone at TOYOTA GAZOO Racing on the manufacturers’ title, now let’s try to get the drivers’ title in Bahrain.”
Image courtesy of TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Team