TOYOTA GAZOO Racing marked a memorable victory on home soil at the 6 Hours of Fuji, not only winning the race but also clinching the manufacturer’s title in the 2023 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season. The thrilling one-two finish was a testament to the team’s resilience and determination, as they battled through challenges to secure their fifth consecutive manufacturer’s World Championship.
A record crowd of 54,700 spectators witnessed the dynamic performance of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, and José María López, who took victory in their #7 GR010 HYBRID after an intense battle with Porsche. This marked the #7 car’s fourth win of 2023, keeping their driver’s World Championship challenge alive as they approach the final race of the season. With a 15-point lead and a maximum of 39 points remaining, the #8 crew now holds a significant advantage.
Despite starting from the front row, the race was far from smooth sailing for the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing team. The GR010 HYBRIDs found themselves battling through the field and only took the lead in the fifth hour of the race. Early on, Mike was pushed down to third, and Sébastien fell to sixth after being hit by the #50 Ferrari at a chaotic turn one. However, as the race progressed, Mike and Sébastien fought their way past the Ferraris, and when the leading #6 Porsche pitted for fuel, the #7 car led from the #8 after the first hour.
The pressure mounted after the first driver changes around the two-hour mark. José set the fastest lap of the race and closed in on the #6 Porsche, while Ryo Hirakawa also closed the gap in the third-placed #8. A string of fast laps from Ryo eventually led to a bold overtake for the lead at the end of the fourth hour. In the final stages, Kamui controlled the race and extended his advantage as Brendon fended off brief pressure from the #6 Porsche.
Kamui’s victory after 229 laps marked TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s ninth win in 10 races at the Fuji Speedway and extended the team’s unbeaten streak since 2016. Brendon Hartley crossed the line in second for the #8 crew, resulting in a perfect one-two finish for the team.
After the race, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Europe Chairman Koji Sato, joined the drivers to celebrate the hard-earned victory and world title on the podium. Sato expressed his gratitude to the Japanese fans and partners who supported their challenge in the WEC and highlighted the team’s strength built under Team Principal Kamui Kobayashi.
Kamui Kobayashi, Team Principal and driver of car #7, declared, “To finish one-two was our target, and it was not easy, but our pace was brilliant. Thanks to the team for their hard work, and thanks to Toyota and our partners for being part of this.” Mike Conway, driver of car #7, also shared his thoughts, stating, “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 was hard fought, and we had to really scrap for position, but it’s nice to get the result.”
6 Hours of Fuji – Result:
1st #7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing 229 laps
2nd #8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +39.119secs
3rd #6 Porsche Penske (Estre/Lotterer/Vanthoor) +47.768secs
4th #50 Ferrari AF Corse (Fuoco/Molina/Nielsen) +1 lap
5th #51 Ferrari AF Corse (Pier Guidi/Calado/Giovinazzi) +1 lap
6th #38 Hertz Team Jota (Da Costa/Stevens/Ye) +1 lap