Following a storybook season that’s seen four victories out of six races, Toyota’s Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi head into this weekend’s FIA WEC Six Hours of Bahrain on the verge of clinching the the Drivers’ World Championship.
With a 42-point lead over Audi’s Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler, the Toyota pairing, which are coming off back-to-back wins at Fuji and Shanghai, need to finish fifth or better on Saturday to lock up the title one race early.
What’s more, should the No. 2 Audi not earn the bonus point for winning pole, Davidson and Buemi would only need to record a top-six result to be champions ahead of the season finale in Sao Paulo in two weeks’ time.
Despite the odds arguably being in their favor, it hasn’t necessarily changed the team’s approach this weekend.
“Clearly, we have to try to find a good compromise between the maximum attack and making sure we finish the race,” Buemi told Sportscar365 Wednesday at Bahrain International Circuit.
“So far, we’ve pushed hard and have won the races but we have to keep in mind that if we can’t [win], because the car is not quick enough or we have a problem or whatever, we will try to to finish the race.
“Our objective is to really push and try to attack it like a normal race, like a race we want to win. We just need to concentrate on the basics of having a good car for the race… We need to have it as a normal weekend.”
The No. 8 Toyota TS040 Hybrid has nearly been in a class of its own this year, with dominant wins at Silverstone and Spa, while salvaging a third place result at Le Mans after a crash in the wet by Nicolas Lapierre.
While Frenchman didn’t return to the cockpit following a similar, less-impacting spin at COTA, Davidson and Buemi continued their winning ways and have oftentimes been in a league of their own.
The duo head into this weekend’s penultimate round of the season as defending race winners, having scored top honors with Stephane Sarrazin in Bahrain last year. Lapierre and Alex Wurz dominated the race here in 2012, prior to an accident.
“From last year’s experience and the year before, for the team’s sake, it’s always been a pretty strong circuit for us,” Davidson said. “It suits our hybrid system with lots of heavy braking here. It’s the only way we can recover the energy.
“With these long, hard braking zones and sharp exits out of tight corners in a straight line, it really helps us utilize the system to its maximum capacity.
“We also have a nice slippery car in a straight line. On paper it should suit our car but you never know. Others can be strong when you least expect.”
In addition to the possibility of Davidson and Buemi locking up the drivers’ title, Toyota holds a realistic chance of clinching the Manufacturers’ World Championship this weekend as well.
With a 29-point lead over two-time and defending champions Audi, the Japanese manufacturer would need to score 24 points combined between both cars on Saturday.
A double podium finish for the pair of TS040 Hybrids would be enough to take the title.
Davidson, meanwhile, credits the season’s success to the crew, which were able to make a significant turn in the car’s race pace after struggling in pre-season testing.
“If someone had told me then that we’d have such a good car, especially in race trim, I would have found it hard to believe,” he said.
“But that’s where the team has worked incredibly hard to turn things around and to give us the car we have today.”