Toyota Motorsport, the low-budget newcomer in factory endurance racing, once again defeated the long-reigning giant, Audi, and this time on home turf in front of tens of thousands of cheering fans.
Toyota’s #7 TS030 Hybrid crossed the finish line eleven seconds ahead of Audi’s #1 R18 e-tron quattro, winning the World Endurance Championship Six Hours of Fuji Sunday.
Fans got an extra treat, as Japanese driver Kazuki Nakajima was behind the wheel when the checkered flag waved. He was the first Japanese winner of an FIA World Championship race since Toyota driver Hitoshi Ogawa won at Monza in 1992.
The second Audi finished 92 seconds behind, barely on the lead lap.
“What a day! It is a great achievement and it was a team effort so many thanks to my team-mates and the team, who prepared a great car, as well as everybody at Toyota who prepared such an impressive hybrid system,” Nakajima said in a team press release.
“To win a world championship race as a driver has been my aim for my whole career so it is a great day.
“I was so excited in the last few laps. I was getting the message from my engineer to push hard because I had to make a gap for our last pit stop, so it was quite challenging. I was pushing like crazy and finally we just made it.”
Fuji is Toyota’s home track, and not just because it is in Japan. The automaker actually owns the facility. Among the adoring fans were several top Toyota officials, which surely bodes well for the Japanese team’s 2013 budget.
After winning the pole on Saturday Kaz Nakajima drove the final two hours, 45 minutes, and he did a fine job of it. After pitting on lap 222 for enough fuel to finish the race, Nakajima rejoined with a six-second lead over Audi’s André Lotterer. The Japanese driver stretched that gap to eleven seconds in 13 laps, outpacing the Le Mans-winning German driver, who was pushing as hard as possible.
Toyota’s other two drivers, Alec Wurz and Nicolas Lapierre, both drove excellent stints. While both Audis had incidental contact on a couple of occasions, Toyota’s pilots avoided the competition (though Lapierre had to run well off the track to miss the #77 Felbermayr Porsche, which Benoîtt Tréluyer briefly take the lead.)
Those collisions, however minor, meant the race for Audi.
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