Hartley and Toyota head to WEC round in Portugal

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will write another step in the history books when the GR010 HYBRID Hypercar takes on new competitors in the 8 Hours of Portimao, round two of the 2021 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).

Next week’s event in Portugal marks Toyota’s 100th race at the top level of World Championship endurance racing. Since the debut of the 83C car in the Fuji 1000km in October 1983, Toyota prototypes have participated in 99 World Championship races.

“I’m looking forward to racing with the GR010 HYBRID at Portimao, particularly against new competition in the Hypercar category,” commented Brendon Hartley. “It’s good to have another Hypercar to compare ourselves with. In a way, it feels a bit strange to be going to Portugal in the middle of June because usually we are in Le Mans, but this is an important step in our preparations for the big one in August so we will be pushing to keep the momentum going from Spa.”

Following a historic first Hypercar victory in Spa-Francorchamps, the World Champions face new competition from Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus, which enters one car, as does Alpine. Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley, in the #8 GR010 HYBRID, lead the drivers’ standings after winning at Spa, while Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López, in the #7, began their title defence with third.

Portimao is a new venue for WEC and therefore becomes the 21st different circuit on which Toyota has participated in World Championship sportscar racing since that first race in 1983, won by Derek Bell and Stefan Bellof in a Porsche 956. The debut of Toyota’s first dedicated Group C car, the 83C, saw Kaoru Hoshino, Keiji Matsumoto and future Le Mans winner Masanori Sekiya classified ninth, while the entry of Derek Daly, Geoff Lees and Toshio Suzuki could not start following a practice crash.

Through hard work, team spirit and continuous improvement, results and performances progressed throughout the following years and Toyota won its first World Championship race, with the TS010 at Monza in 1992, in its third full season. Since that first win, Sébastien has earned the most victories, winning 18 times, and has also participated in more races for Toyota than anyone else, 60 prior to Portimao.

Toyota cars have won 31 of their 99 World Championship races so far, finishing on the podium in over half of those races, a combined total of 78 podium finishes in 56 races, and the team’s target is to add to that tally in Portugal.

Although Portimao is a new venue for WEC, it is a familiar one for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing, which has used the 4.684km track in the Algarve region as a regular testing venue for several years. The team last visited Portimao in December, when the GR010 HYBRID completed its first endurance test.

With no changes permitted to Hypercars during a season, the GR010 HYBRIDs will be in identical specification to those raced in Spa. Nevertheless, engineers in Cologne and Higashi-Fuji have spent the last five weeks optimising set-ups and control strategies whilst addressing technical issues experienced in Belgium.

Following a three-day journey by truck from Cologne, the GR010 HYBRIDs will undergo scrutineering and final preparations on Thursday, prior to first practice on Friday afternoon. Saturday is a busy day of practice and qualifying, to set the grid for Sunday’s race, which begins at 11am local time.

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