The evening of the FIA Prize Giving Gala officially crowned the 2023 Champions of the FIA World Endurance Championship, with the Toyota standard bearers taking to the stage in Baku in the majestic event staged on Friday evening.
In Azerbaijan there was the GR010 Hybrid #8 with which Brendon Hartley, Sébastien Buemi and Ryo Hirakawa won the drivers’ title, beating their companions in the #7, José Maria Lopez, Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway, giving them their ninth Manufacturers’ crown together. at the Japanese House.
Before collecting their respective awards, the boys of #8 took part in the press conference in which they retraced the salient phases of the season.
Hartley was not present, as he was busy with the IMSA tests at Daytona, but he connected remotely to have his say.
“We had to fight against our teammates, for me it is the second title with this crew and I think that we have grown a lot, and that we are increasingly united in the way we work,” said the New Zealander.
“It was tough to finish first, but we did it and I think from a team point of view it was an almost perfect season.”
“We won all the races, except Le Mans which was the only one that went to Ferrari; but we will try to do it again next year. In all cases, we managed to bring home the title with a couple of successes and the difference consistency made it from start to finish.”
“In 2024 it will be even more beautiful, I saw the Daytona tests with some newcomers, Lamborghini was fast straight away and BMW will also be there. It’s incredible to think that there are 19 of us in the Hypercar Class, a number not even imaginable that doesn’t it hadn’t even been seen in LMP1. Beautiful.”
Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images
#8 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 – Hybrid: Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley, Ryo Hirakawa
Hirakawa immediately smiled when he had to describe his emotions about the second title in a row.
“This year was more difficult than last because there were more rivals and greater pressure – admits the Japanese – Honestly, I am very happy with what we did, in every race I was able to learn a lot from my teammates and win the title again It was really special for me.”
Buemi, the most expert of the trio, instead focused on analyzing the only false note of Toyota in 2023, namely the defeat suffered at the 24h of Le Mans for the first time since 2017.
“At Le Mans I think we still had a good race, the Ferrari was a little faster than us and won the most important race of the year. But we dominated the season and learned a lot, especially in the difficult conditions of the away, when it started raining. Certainly not winning Le Mans was hard to accept, but we took home the title consistently throughout the year”, comments the Swiss, underlining what made the difference for their crew.
“The fight against the #7 was very tough, but this year the competition was very close because there were also Ferrari, Peugeot, Cadillac and Porsche. Even if we won fewer races than our sister car, consistency made the difference, we scored points in every race and this took us to the World Championship.”
“I have to thank Toyota who gave us a fantastic car, frankly I didn’t expect to dominate the season like this, fighting with my team mates. We knew that Le Mans would be a crucial point of the year because it is a race that awards a lot of points ; losing them there puts you in difficulty in making a comeback during the rest of the year.”
“In France we finished second taking a good advantage over the #7 which retired, but the other races were still very difficult. We knew we had to make no mistakes and get to the end. Winning the last race in Bahrain and bringing home the title at the same time was really cool.”
Photo by: FIA
Sébastien Buemi, Champion of the FIA HyperCar World Endurance Drivers’ Championship
For Buemi, 2024 will be a decidedly tough season, with many more rivals on the way (Lamborghini, Alpine and BMW with the LMDh, Isotta Fraschini with the LMH and the third Ferrari 499P of AF Corse).
“Next year the rivals will be even stronger, especially Ferrari and Porsche, so we should really do our best to be more competitive too. There will certainly be the BoP to regulate the performance and balance everything, but Ferrari will have three cars and so it will be tough.”
“From what we’ve seen this year, tire management over long distances is what made the difference. Ferrari was immediately very fast on the flying lap, but then over the race distance they suffered with the tyres. I think they worked on it above and learned a lot, tire degradation will continue to be the key also in 2024.”
Finally ‘Seb’ also commented on the arrival of Nyck De Vries, who will get into the Toyota #7 in Lopez’s place, reuniting with the team with which he tested until a year and a half ago.
“Nyck knows endurance very well because he has done a lot of races in LMP2 and many tests with us in the past. It certainly won’t be easy to arrive at a race weekend with very few hours of Free Practice, get into the car and prepare it together with two new companions”.
“I think it will take him some time to adapt, but he has a very well-prepared team and teammates who have been in this series for years. And let’s not forget that endurance races are long, so the goal is to get to the end”.
Photo by: Shameem Fahath
#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 – Hybrid: Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez, #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 – Hybrid: Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley, Ryo Hirakawa
Subsequently, on the occasion of the awards ceremony, the President of the FIA, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, also took to the stage and said he was very satisfied with how the WEC is growing.
“If we look at the WEC last year and compare it to what it will be in 2024, we can see how much it has grown and the many manufacturers involved,” said Ben Sulayem.
“I am very happy with what the series has done and I like to see good races, and I would like to underline the quality of the events we have on the calendar, with many manufacturers arriving and a greater number of people interested. For this I congratulate the WEC “.
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