Toyota GAZOO Racing earned another podium finish after a strong performance in a closely-fought 6 Hours of Circuit of the Americas, the sixth round of the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).
The #6 TS050 Hybrid of Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi finished third for their fourth podium of 2016, finishing just 26.096secs behind the winner after an exciting victory battle between all three LMP1 hybrid manufacturers.
Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima in the #5 suffered another unfortunate race, with several minor issues combining to keep it out of the podium fight, finishing in fifth.
The race had started promisingly for the #5, when Sébastien moved from sixth on the grid to fourth place during a charging first stint under blazing sunshine and with air temperatures over 35°C.
Mike took the start in the #6 and ran sixth during the opening stint before handing over to Kamui at the first pit stops. At the same time, great pit work on the #5 allowed Anthony to emerge in third, an issue on the wastegate of the turbo began to compromise performance and the #5 slipped to sixth by the 90-minute mark.
As darkness fell and the race reached half distance, the #5 lost more time when a damaged front end was changed after Kazuki's stint, then suffered again soon after when a rear left puncture forced an unplanned pit stop for Sébastien.
But the #6 was lapping very quickly and continuing to push the Porsches. Mike took fourth place before dramas for the #8 Audi helped Kamui, now at the wheel, to run third as the race entered its final two hours.
That became second, with the #5 also moving up a place when the #7 crashed as the close fight at the front began to take its toll. A three-way fight between three different manufacturers for victory developed in the final hour.
Stéphane took over from Kamui for the final stint in third place, with the Audi #8 not changing tyres during its last stop. Stéphane had fresh tyres and pushed to close the gap, with the race leader also not far away.
A fighting performance in the final laps saw the gap close, but second place was just out of reach, with Stéphane taking the chequered flag only 2.455secs behind the second-placed Audi #8 and 26.096secs behind the winning Porsche #1. Sébastien brought the #5 home two laps down in fifth.
Toyota will now travel with optimism to its home race, the 6 Hours of Fuji on 16 October, which takes place just a few kilometres from the Higashi-Fuji Technical Centre where the 1,000hp Toyota Hybrid System―Racing is developed and built.