Cars

Toyota’s champions: ex-F1 star, daredevil and oval refugee

So Toyota is the first hypercar world champion of the sports car world championship. No wonder: The 680 hp Toyota GR010 Hybrid had no competition. Glickenhaus only appeared sporadically with his hypercar and was not able to win. Alpine drove a castrated Rebellion LMP2 vehicle. For the first time in the history of the WEC, all victories went to one manufacturer.

Technical director Pascal Vasselon draws a positive conclusion: “We are happy with the season. We haven’t had any major technical problems in the last two races. We see it as an advantage that we already know our car if other manufacturers are gradually getting on board. “

Precisely because Toyota was unrivaled, the two driver trios were able to compete for the title in a sporty way – without stable orders, without team preferences. Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley won three races, as did Kamui Kobayashi, José María López and Mike Conway. But the latter scored the decisive points: victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans – and in the end also the title. As in the previous year.

Kobayashi most successful Formula 1 Japanese

The best-known driver of the trio is Kamui Kobayashi (35). The Japanese is one of only three drivers from Japan who made it onto the podium in Formula 1. At the Japanese GP 2012 he came third in a Sauber Ferrari and was celebrated like a folk hero. Nevertheless, he had no chance against team-mate Sergio.

Toyota and the trio of Kamui Kobayashi, José María López and Mike Conway successfully defended their title in the World Sports Car Championship.

Kobayashi contested 75 races in Formula 1. In 2009, he joined the Brazilian GP as a replacement for Timo Glock. For laps he was able to stand up to future world champion Jenson Button. “It’s absolutely crazy the way he races,” Button cursed at the time. But Kobayashi was strong, even finishing sixth in Abu Dhabi. Toyota offered him a regular cockpit for 2010, which became obsolete when the Japanese got out in the wake of the economic crisis.

Nevertheless, Kobayashi made a lasting impression and was part of the Sauber team for three years. In 2013 he entered the World Endurance Championship with AF Corse-Ferrari, and in 2014 he returned to Formula 1 with Caterham. He has been part of the Toyota squad in the Le Mans top class since 2016. He has remained connected to formula racing through the Super Formula in Japan, where he has already been runner-up five times, but has never won a race.

Daredevil López

When it comes to the number of world titles, however, José María López is the most successful of the three drivers. For the second time he won the sports car world title, before that he was three times touring car world champion with Citroën from 2014 to 2016. The 38-year-old is considered a daredevil, producing too much kind of small wood in his first WEC years.

“It’s tough in touring car racing, paint changing and touching are the order of the day. Of course, it was clear to me that endurance races have a completely different philosophy. Still, it took a while for my driving style to adapt, ”the Argentinean admits. He now has as many FIA World Championship titles as his compatriot and Formula 1 legend Juan Manuel Fangio

Oval races a horror for Conway

Toyota is the first hypercar world champion in the sports car world championship.

Mike Conway is by no means a daredevil – the first Briton since Derek Bell in 1985/1986 to win the sports car world title twice in a row. On the contrary: The 38-year-old prefers to play it safe. With four wins in the IndyCar series, Conway was about to hit the US sport. But at the end of 2012 the U-turn: “I didn’t feel like competing in the oval races anymore. I just didn’t feel comfortable on these routes anymore. “

In 2010, the 38-year-old himself had a serious accident at the Indy 500, and in 2011 his compatriot and friend Dan Wheldon died in a terrifying crash in Las Vegas.

Instead, Conway switched to the endurance scene, has been part of the Toyota squad since 2014 and is one of the veterans of the racing team. And now also double world champions in the sports car world championship.

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