Tough call for Toyota Gazoo racing in Shanghai
Top-six finishes in penultimate World Endurance Championship round
The Six Hours of Shanghai, the penultimate round of the 2015 World Endurance Championship brought top-six places for both Toyota Gazoo Racing cars on Sunday (1 November), but overall it was a race to forget for the reigning champions.
The No2 TS040 Hybrid of Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin and Mike Conway earned fifth place, ahead of Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima in sixth in the No2 car.
The race was marked by incidents and bad luck for the team, which prevented them from repeating the fighting performance shown in similar conditions last time out at Fuji.
Persistent rain meant the first 12 minutes of the race ran behind the safety car and, following some position-swapping on the first racing lap, Davidson held fifth, ahead of Conway in the sister car.
That changed around the 90-minute mark when a slow puncture forced Davidson to pit, just a few laps into his second stint. That put the No2 car, now with Alex behind the wheel, in fifth, just ahead of Nakajima in the other Toyota.
Heavier rain made the track treacherous. Following another full-course yellow in the second hour, the two TS040 Hybrids swapped positions when Wurz spun.
That was only a temporary switch as Nakajima also spun on the last corner at the two-hour mark, losing more than a lap while he was dragged out of the gravel. He only lost one place, however, and emerged in sixth.
As the track began to dry, Buemi in the No1 car took a chance on being the first to switch to Hybrid intermediate tyres, although conditions initially were too slippery and he lost time.
With the track now drying, the lap times fell and as the last hour approached, Sarrazin switched to slick tyres. Buemi meanwhile was pushing hard a lap behind in sixth, with his lap times close to those of the leaders in cool, slightly damp conditions.
Ultimately the two TS040 Hybrids respectively finished four and five laps behind the winning No17 Porsche.
Today’s result confirmed Porsche as the 2015 World Champion manufacturers, succeeding Toyota. The drivers’ title will be decided in the last race of the season, the Six Hours of Bahrain on 21 November.