End of an era
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing bids farewell to driver Alex Wurz and its double-title-winning TS040 HYBRID this weekend in the Six Hours of Bahrain, the final round of the 2015 World Endurance Championship.
The 1,000hp, four-wheel-drive hybrid prototype will compete in its 16th race, marking the end of an era wearing the #1 it earned by winning both drivers’ and manufacturers’ World Championships in 2014.
That #1 car will be driven by Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima in Bahrain, with the #2 piloted by Alex, Stéphane Sarrazin and Mike Conway in a race which starts in daylight and finishes in darkness.
Bahrain will see Alex’s final race before retirement, as announced last week. In his four seasons with the team, he has played a central role in technical development, as well as contributing to development of the whole team to meet the specific demands of endurance racing.
Prior to this weekend’s race, Alex has taken part in 27 WEC races for TOYOTA, winning five and finishing on the podium a total of 11 times.
Alex’s most recent win came in Bahrain last year, alongside Stéphane and Mike. That put him alongside Anthony and Sébastien on five wins for the team, the most for any TOYOTA driver in WEC.
Bahrain also holds a special significance for the TS040 HYBRID as it was the location where Anthony and Sébastien secured their drivers’ crown last year, and it is a track on which TOYOTA has won twice in three attempts.
Whilst representing the perfect farewell to car and driver, another win is considered unlikely given the relative performance of Audi and Porsche. Nevertheless, the team heads to Bahrain determined to end the TS040 HYBRID era in positive fashion.
Since its first race at Silverstone in April 2014, the TS040 HYBRID has won five races, including three one-twos. In total, it has finished on the podium 13 times and started from pole position four times, including the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours.
This weekend’s race takes place on Saturday, with the green flag flying at 15.00 local time. To prepare for that, Thursday sees two practice sessions (15.15 & 19.30) before final practice (11.00) and qualifying (17.30) on Friday.
Toshio Sato, Team President: “Alex has been a fundamental part of our team since the very beginning, in 2011. I would like to sincerely thank him for his contribution to our WEC project; his technical input, motivation and ability have been invaluable to us. It is sad to think about the last-ever race for our TS040 HYBRID as we enjoyed some fantastic times with this car in 2014. But the end of this era also means the start of a new one and we are already hard at work, in Cologne and at Higashi-Fuji, to develop our next challenger. I hope we can mark the final race for Alex and the TS040 HYBRID with a positive result this weekend; I know that everyone in the team is pushing hard for this.”
Anthony Davidson (TS040 HYBRID #1): “I have great memories of Sébastien and I winning the drivers’ World Championship in Bahrain last season so it is a special track for me. Like Austin, the weather is usually pretty hot in Bahrain; it’s not easy for the drivers or the pit crews. We have always been strong there and the team won in 2013 and 2014. This year it will be a different story but we still want to stand on the podium again before the end of the season so we will not give up.”
Sébastien Buemi (TS040 HYBRID #1): “Bahrain is a track that I know well and I really like. Also I have good memories as we won the drivers’ title there last year so I am looking forward to going back. We know it is going to be a tough weekend and we cannot expect any help from the weather as it is usually dry there. All season we have seen big lap time improvements compared to 2014 so I am interested to see what our car can do on this track.”
Kazuki Nakajima (TS040 HYBRID #1): “I have only raced in LMP1 once in Bahrain, in 2013, but I have been there a few times in other categories so I know the track pretty well. Normally the weather will not be a big factor but I remember my first time in Bahrain in GP2 when it rained, which was a big surprise. I certainly won’t be banking on that this weekend. No matter what, I will push hard. I really want to deliver a strong result as a reward for the team who have worked so hard this year.”
Alex Wurz (TS040 HYBRID #2): “The last race of the season came around quicker than I thought, but I am looking forward to Bahrain. I like this race not only because of the warmer weather and visiting one of my favourite restaurants, but also because I love the track. Certainly we can’t expect that the performance to Audi or Porsche will change, but still I will go there fully motivated and in attack mode.”
Stéphane Sarrazin (TS040 HYBRID #2): “I really enjoy the Bahrain track and I have gone well there in the past. Both of my WEC wins with TOYOTA have come in Bahrain so I have some happy memories. We know we are not on the same performance level as Audi and Porsche this year so it will be very hard to challenge again. But our job is to get the maximum out of our car and that is what we will do. I hope we can get a good result for Alex in his last race.”
Mike Conway (TS040 HYBRID #2): “I like Bahrain and it will always be a special place for me as the track where I won my first WEC race. It is one of only two tracks this year where I arrive already with some good miles under my belt in an LMP1 car. That definitely makes it easier as I don’t have to learn the track with this car, so I am looking forward to the weekend. It’s the last race of 2015 so I would like to say thanks to the team for always giving everything this year despite the difficulties. I hope we can end it with a strong result, especially for Alex.”
ALEX WURZ ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing would like to thank Alex Wurz for his significant contribution to its World Endurance Championship project.
Alex, 41, announced today that he will retire from racing after next weekend’s Six Hours of Bahrain, the final round of the 2015 World Endurance Championship.
Alex was the first driver signed by TOYOTA in 2011 when its entry into WEC was confirmed, and delivered the team its first pole position and victory in Brazil in 2012, just the team’s third race.
In his four seasons with TOYOTA, two-time Le Mans winner Alex has played a crucial role in technical development, as well as contributing to development of the whole team to meet the requirements of endurance racing.
He has been a valued and popular team member, whose presence will be sorely missed.
Prior to the season-ending Bahrain round, Alex has taken part in 27 WEC races for TOYOTA, winning five and finishing on the podium a total of 11 times.
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will announce its 2016 driver line-up early next year.
Toshio Sato, Team President: “Alex has been a fundamental part of our team since the very beginning, in 2011. We have enjoyed some fantastic moments together; I know everyone in the team will remember that first victory in Sao Paulo for a long, long time. I would like to sincerely thank him for his contribution to our WEC project; his technical input, motivation and ability have been invaluable to us. Whilst it is sad to see such a respected and successful driver step away from racing, we wish Alex all the very best for the future.”
Time to hang up the helmet
After 12 years as a race and third driver in F1, I was lucky to indulge a passion for Le Mans Prototype racing for a further 8 seasons. That means I’ve enjoyed half of my lifetime competing at the top of motorsport and another quarter of it working my way up there, so I feel the time is right to call it a day and bring my career as a professional racing driver to a close.
I’ve a lot to be grateful
for and a lot I’m proud of. My two Le Mans wins will always be the most special
and unforgettable, along with the Silverstone podium in my 3rd Formula 1 race.
In F1, I feel hugely privileged to have driven for top F1 teams like Benetton, McLaren and Williams, and added a bit of silverware to their trophy cabinets. I loved the testing and development work, collaborating with the engineers to find ever more performance.
LMP1 brought some epic
battles and crushing retirements. Nothing beats the Le Mans podiums, but the Sebring 12h, Petit
Le Mans and securing Toyotas first WEC victory were pretty special too.
Endurance racing, especially Le Mans, has to be one of the harshest sports. I’ve lead most of the Le Mans 24h races I have raced in. But it was our 15 hour lead in last years race that ended with retirement that had to be the hardest. Id put so much effort into 2014 and into the race preparation that I found it very difficult to move on after the DNF. In previous years, such a defeat made me come back stronger, ready to launch into the fight again, but not that time. This was the moment I knew that my time at the sharp end was coming to a natural end. The WEC Bahrain 6 hrs will mark this end.
So a big thanks to the racing community for the challenges, the battles and the victories, and to the fans, the teams, the competitors, the organisers, the volunteers and especially to my family!
My future will still evolve around racing, its in my blood after all. Anyone who knows me, knows that I always have lots of projects on the go which includes growing my road safety and race track design business.
You will still see me
around, just without the overalls.