The Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 team, consisting of New Zealander Brendon Hartley, Sébastien Buemi and Ryo Hirakawa have won the World Endurance Championship (WEC) premier Hypercar class after finishing second in the 8 Hours of Bahrain over the weekend.
It’s Hartley’s third WEC title, following success in 2015 and 2017.
Hartley and Buemi also write their names into the endurance race history books after they became the first drivers to win three titles in the top category of WEC.
“I am really pleased to complete the job here and win both World Championships,” said Hartley.
“I don’t think it has really sunk in yet that we are champions again, but I’m sure it will soon.
“Thanks to everyone on the team for their fantastic support all year to give us a car to win the title and Le Mans.”
The team were made to work for it, however, entering this weekend’s finale equal on points with the #36 Alpine of André Negrão, Nicolas Lapierre and Matthieu Vaxiviere creating a winner-take-all scenario for the title.
“Today our objective was simply to beat Alpine and secure the title; we couldn’t afford to take any risks just to get the race win,” added Hartley.
“Car #7 had the pace and deserved the victory, so well done to them. They have been tough competitors all year and it has been fiercely fought, also with Alpine who kept us honest.
“We worked hard for this title and it is a credit to the whole team.”
The event got underway perfectly for the outfit, Hartley putting in a massive lap to qualify on pole for the race. That also gave them a single bonus point to take the lead of the series pre-race.
It was the #7 Toyota of Mike Conway, Jose Maria Lopez and Kamui Kobayashi which took race honours, Conway having worked his way past Hartley just after the 3 hour mark and not looking back.
Second place with the #36 behind was enough for the title for Hartley and co, a 1-2 finish and the WEC to boot making for a successful event for Toyota Gazoo Racing.
The #8 overcame the odds in taking the title after a DNF in the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps hurt them in the early season, their success largely guided by their double-points victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Victory in the 6 Hours of Fuji, last round, also put them in with a shot for the crown, closing the gap their rivals had built in finishing every race thus far.
The season of the Alpine has been filled with success, the team opening their 2022 account with 1000 Miles of Sebring victory over the new world champions. They then finished second at Spa in the event the Toyota failed to finish, issues with their hybrid system bringing about early withdrawal.
Their season came undone at Le Mans, the squad only managing fourth in the double points race to lose a massive chunk of ground on their rivals.
Alpine bounced back strongly with victory over the #8 at Monza before finishing third, again behind the two Toyota’s, in Japan.
This setup the narrative for this morning’s finale, the 8 Hours of Bahrain, perfectly, a winner-take-all scenario between the #36 and #8.