Race report LMP: First historic FIA WEC victory for Toyota

Race report LMP: First historic FIA WEC victory for Toyota


The 25,000 spectators for the 6 Hours of Sao Paulo, the fifth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship, were treated to the sight of a flawless outright victory for the No.7 Toyota TS030 Hybrid.  Alex Wurz and Nicolas Lapierre started from pole position and led nearly the whole race, only leaving Audi to enjoy a brief moment at the head of the time sheets during the first pit stop.

The Japanese constructor was certainly helped by the only safety car period of the race, the two German prototypes finding themselves behind the second safety car while the first was ahead of the Toyota.  However, the Franco-Austrian duo had already built a comfortable lead on track, aware that the two Audis could do more laps in a stint between two pit stops.

In the end, the first three cars in the overall classification all finished on the same lap after six hours of racing.  André Lotterer, Marcel Fässler and Benoît Tréluyer, at the wheel of the No.1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro crossed the finish line one minute behind the Japanese racing car and 14 seconds ahead of the No.2 Audi R18 ultra of Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Brazilian Lucas di Grassi.

The domination of the No.12 Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyota was also clear cut as Neel Jani and Nicolas Prost took the chequered flag with two laps in hand over the second LMP1 Privateer, the No.21 Strakka Racing HPD-Honda. The Franco-Swiss pairing just missed out on an overall podium after having had a trouble-free race, unlike the 100% British line up of Jonny Kane, Danny Watts and Nick Leventis.  The latter had contact with Harold Primat, who had taken over from Andrea Belicchi, and the No.13 Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyota in the penultimate hour of the race, but the two drivers were able to continue and there was only a gap of three seconds between Strakka and the No.13 at the finish.

There was also a dazzling victory in the LMP2 class for the Starworks Motorsport HPD-Honda after a win at the 12 Hours of Sebring, opening round of the Championship in March, and above all at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.  Stephane Sarrazin, who clinched pole in the category yesterday, Enzo Potolicchio and Ryan Dalziel had three laps in hand at the finish, but the result doesn’t truly represent their race which didn’t go altogether smoothly for the American team.  

Although it started off at the front, Starworks Motorsport battled with the No.35 Oak Racing Morgan-Nissan for more than four hours, but the latter’s race ended on the side of the track following a technical problem, putting an end to the hopes of the French team.  OAK Racing had to be content with the third step of the podium for the No.24 sister car of Jacques Nicolet, Matthieu Lahaye and Olivier Pla, despite a penalty for speeding in the pit lane and a brush on the first lap with the No.49 Pecom Racing Oreca 03-Nissan.  The Argentinian entry in the end finished second in class. Pierre Kaffer, Luis Perez-Companc, partnered by Nicolas Minassian, were able to pass a good many competitors after the first lap incident and mounted the second step of the podium having not had any other problem.

The competitors will be gathered together again in two weeks on 29th September in Bahrain for the sixth round of the 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship, a six-hour race which will run into the night.

CLICK HERE for the provisional result

1st  - Nicolas Lapierre
nr7 Toyota Racing Toyota TS030-Hybrid

“It’s fantastic for the team.  Since the beginning of the year we knew it was a fast car, but we struggled with reliability in Le Mans.  At Silverstone we showed our pace and we came away with the second place.  So coming here, Alex did a wonderful job in qualifying getting our first pole position and then we were able to pull away.  We were very good on tyre management and we had a faultless race, which brought us to this win in only our third race.”

1st - Alex Wurz
nr7 Toyota Racing TS030-Hybrid

“Thanks to Nico and the team, they have been pushing really hard all weekend.  To be honest we didn’t know about the fuel strategy, the safety car helped us a bit but we still had to do a splash. The key today was tyre management, especially in the second stint, which gave us the upper hand on our competitors.  We also did a lot of work on the setup and drivers side too.  Whether we can be competitive in Bahrain, Fuji and Shanghai, Kinoshita San summed it up earlier this year at the Le Mans press conference, ‘you watch, we push’.”

2nd - Benoit Treluyer
nr1 Audi Sport Team Joest  Audi R18 e-tron quattro

“Honestly I wasn ‘t truly surprised from the beginning, but I was surprised by the tyre degradation.  I think we weren’t on the right pressure and that was why I suffered a little bit in the second stint.  Unfortunately the safety car didn’t help us either.  Anyway we had a good fight with the Toyota and with Alan and we are going to be ready for Bahrain. The race in Silverstone was on our side and the race here was more on their side and Toyota deserve to win this race, they did a great job.”

2nd - Marcel Fassler
nr1 Audi Sport Team Joest  Audi R18 e-tron quattro

“First of all I’d like to congratulate Toyota on their win today; it was a really strong performance.  The second place is good for the driver championship, which gives us three extra points and this is our main goal for the season.  As a driver we all want to win, we can’t be happy to be runner up but today we just didn’t have the performance.  I struggled a bit in my second stint with tyre degradation, so it just wasn’t possible.”

2nd - Andre Lotterer
nr1 Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 e-tron quattro

“Congratulations to Toyota and the only reaction we can do is drive faster and try to beat them now.  They have increased their speed a lot and on high down force tracks, their rear wing helps as well.  For sure we weren’t in ideal conditions with our tyres but we collected a lot of data here and we have a chance to improve.  We had a good fight with our sister car and I’m pleased we could stay ahead of them.”

3rd - Allan McNish
Nr2 Audi Sport Team Joest  Audi R18 Ultra

“First thing was it was very tough off the line because both Nicolas and Ben were able to out accelerate me.  During the first couple of laps I thought we may have been able to hang on but as soon as they got their tyres up to temperature they pulled away.  From that point it was a case of conserving the tyres.  I was not as quick as Ben in the first stint and he was able to pull away, but in the second stint I was in better shape and I was able to pull back in.  In reality this was as fast as the car would go.  Where we are with the ultra is we have a good set up, we worked hard with it and in one lap we can definitely do the time.  We struggled a bit in traffic so overall I think we did a pretty good job considering where we were.”

3rd - Tom Kristensen
Nr2 Audi Sport Team Joest  Audi R18 Ultra

“Congratulations to Toyota, they have worked very hard; I know how hard we work, so I think that’s very important and today is a day that belongs to them.  Also I’ve enjoyed many, many years with Allan and Dindo and now Dindos not here and we have Lucas.  He did a splendid job and I’m very happy he is part of the Audi family.  We had a strong race, I have to put my hand up to say I had a close encounter with a GT car, I can’t blame the GT car and this cost us some time.  The second time I got put onto the grass but these things happen from time to time.  Today things didn’t work out for us and well done to Toyota.”

3rd - Lucas di Grassi
Nr2 Audi Sport Team Joest  Audi R18 Ultra

“I have to thank my teammates, they’ve been incredibly helpful to try and fit me into the team. I’d also like to thank Audi for this amazing experience. Regarding the race, we did the best we could with the car, we worked very hard and today we didn’t have the fastest car.  I’d like to congratulate Toyota, it is always good to have strong competition and Audi will now have to pull back to them.”

Stephane Sarrazin - 1st LMP2
Nr44 Starworks Motorsports HPD ARX 03b Honda

“It’s been a perfect weekend for us.  We arrived for free practice and the car was already good and we had a very good qualifying with the pole.  The race was very strong for us and both Enzo and Ryan did a perfect job in the car and extended the lead, with no problems in the car, so we were able to push.  We had a fast car and it was a perfect weekend.  We extended our lead in the championship and it’s like a dream so we hope to do the same again in two weeks.”

Enzo Potolicchio - 1st LMP2
Nr44 Starworks Motorsports HPD ARX 03b Honda

 “In the beginning the team was hiding from me that I was catching the leaders and they didn’t want me to do anything different and then, when I started to see that I was getting closer, I just had in mind to give car back to my co-drivers in good shape and with no damage and that’s what I did.  I had a really good stint and I feel good about my average time and I was able to hold the position and hand over to Ryan in good shape.  We’ve got a comfortable lead in the WEC and the car ahead of us wasn’t a problem on points.  We kept the car clean and just have to polish it up to go to Bahrain.  I’m really proud to be part of Starworks.  Ryan and I had no knowledge of any other these tracks this year apart from Sebring, everything else is brand new for us and we’ve had some great results at the biggest events of the year.  This is the closest event to home for me so I’m really excited to be here.”

Ryan Dalziel - 1st LMP2
Nr44 Starworks Motorsports HPD ARX 03b Honda

“I think the Starworks HPD was the car to have this weekend!  It’s a great package but we have great people too.  We turned up here and found, for the first time that we were competitive straight away.  We expected to maybe have a bit of an advantage here being the only turbo-powered LMP2 in the field but the Nissans can still match us even at altitude.  We didn’t have the advantage we first thought we’d have but what we did have was an extremely fast and reliable car.  Most places seem to come down to tyre wear and we’re extremely conservative on what we do to the car to make sure we can double-stint consistently.  A lot of the other cars seemed to be falling off in their second stints and I think we’ve been strong at that all year.  Today was definitely won by strategy, hard work and a well-prepared car.”

 Fiona Miller