Sebastien Buemi credited being able to “copy paste” the setup from the No. 7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid from last weekend’s 6 Hours of Bahrain to help propel the No. 8 car to victory in Saturday’s 8 Hours of Bahrain.
Buemi and co-drivers Brendon Hartley and Kazuki Nakajima scored their third FIA World Endurance Championship win of the season although still came up short in the drivers’ world championship, which went to their teammates.
After finishing runner-up to Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez in the penultimate round of the season due to having increased tire degradation to the No. 7 car, the decision was made to share the setup from across the garage.
“There is always collaboration in the team. We are a big team, a big family,” said Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe technical director Pascal Vasselon.
Buemi explained: “I think we did what we could to ‘copy paste’. Basically we took over the setup from Car 7 just to make sure we didn’t have this kind of [tire] degradation anymore.
“It was obviously the right choice.
“The first stint I was behind the sister car and the Alpine and I decided to try to save more energy. With my Formula E experience, it was a bit easier [for me].
“We went a lap longer, which was early in the race but we never knew what was going to happen. Sometimes you miss it just by one lap with a Full Course Yellow.
“By having that extra lap we opened the possibilities of pitting under Full Course Yellows.
“I think we just had a good pace. We were a bit faster because we lost over our sister car more than 15 seconds in the pit stops during the race.”
Vasselon said tire degradation between the two Le Mans Hypercar entries were “extremely close” unlike one week ago where the advantage weighed heavily in the No. 7 car’s favor.
“When you see how close they are after 247 laps, you imagine that the way you divide the gap… it’s virtually nothing,” he explained.
“At some point, car No. 8 took the edge and kept car No. 7 at distance. That was it.”
A four-tire stop for the No. 8 Toyota early on helped play the deciding factor, although Vasselon believes it was a combination of both a faster car and a slightly more conservative run for the No. 7 crew, knowing they needed to finish the race in order to win the drivers’ world championship.
“As expected, the race has been faster than last week,” Vasselon said. “And definitely car No. 8 had the edge.
“But it’s true that car No. 7 was probably playing a bit of a different game. They hardly took risks in traffic, when car No. 8 was pushing like usual.
“So I cannot quantify it, but it’s true that the two cars did not have the same targets and strategies. Car No. 7 would have been stupid somehow to take the same amount of risk as usual when they just had to finish.”
Nakajima: “Very Lucky” to Finish WEC Career With Win
The win for the No. 8 Toyota meant that Nakajima went out with a victory in his final WEC race with the Japanese manufacturer.
It was announced earlier this week that Nakajima would be stepping down as a driver in the LMH program following Saturday’s race.
Toyota tasked the 36-year-old with the final double stint to the checkered flag.
“It was really special for us,” Nakajima said. “To finish my WEC career like this, I’m very happy and I am very lucky to be with such [great] teammates.
“We as a team fought really hard to the end.
“The beginning was pretty difficult for me to keep myself under control. It was quite difficult to focus on driving.
“We managed to win the race altogether as a team. Car 7 won the [drivers] championship, we won the team championship.
“I’m really happy with the result. A big thanks to all of my teammates and Toyota Gazoo Racing and everyone who supported me through my career.”
Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report