But both TS030 HYBRID cars lost positions to the two Audis mainly because track temperatures did not suit the chosen Michelin tyre compound.
TOYOTA Racing left the Six Hours of Silverstone with a podium finish after a challenging opening to the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship.
The #7 of Alex Wurz and Nicolas Lapierre started from pole position and took the chequered flag in fourth place.
Following yesterday’s weather-affected qualifying, the two TS030 HYBRIDs started from the front row of the grid and led the opening laps, with Alex and Anthony respectively.
But both cars lost positions to the two Audis soon after, settling into third (#8) and fourth (#7) positions as track temperatures did not suit the chosen Michelin tyre compound.
Around one-third distance Nicolas took over the #7 with Stéphane getting behind the wheel of the #8.
Within a few minutes, rain created tricky conditions and Nicolas switched briefly to intermediate tyres before reverting to slicks as the track dried.
Still running third and fourth, just after half distance Stéphane handed over the #8 to Sébastien as, 30 minutes later, Alex got back behind the wheel of the #7 for his final stint.
Both cars switched to the alternative tyre compound which was better suited to conditions and they showed a strong pace but could not close the gap on the leading Audis.
The final driver change for #8 came as the last hour approached, with Anthony continuing to set competitive lap times as he took the chequered flag in third, with Alex close behind in fourth.
The next round of the FIA World Endurance Championship takes place in Belgium on 4 May, with the Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, just 120km from TOYOTA Racing’s home base at TOYOTA Motorsport GmbH in Cologne, Germany.
TS030 HYBRID #7 (Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre) - Race: 4th, 196 laps (+1 lap), 9 pit stops. Fastest lap: 1min 43.741secs
Alex Wurz: “It was a difficult race for us. During the first stint, the tyres went off quickly due to the track temperatures. That affected our pace and our strategy as we were not able to do two stints on the same tyres which cost us additional time in the pits. Then we drove as hard as we could but it was not possible to fight with Audi and ultimately we missed out on the podium. So we have to go back to Cologne and work hard to get a better result at Spa.”
Nicolas Lapierre: “It was a very tough race for us. I made a wrong choice for the tyre when it was drizzling; we took a chance on the intermediate but in the end it didn’t work out as the track dried quite quickly. We would have probably been able to keep third without that but in the end the team result did not change, even if it was the #8 car on the podium instead of Alex and me. Now, we look forward to getting the new car for Spa, getting a better pace and being able to fight with Audi.”
TS030 HYBRID #8 (Anthony Davidson, Stéphane Sarrazin, Sébastien Buemi) - Race: 3rd, 196 laps (+1 lap), 7 pit stops. Fastest lap: 1min 43.196secs
Anthony Davidson: “That was a tough race and one of the harder podiums of my career. It was a case of the tyres being out of their temperature range; we were suffering from graining and a lack of front grip.
Both Alex and I had to nurse them through the first stint and we were not able to double stint with them. We changed to a different compound towards the end and the track temperatures dropped more which helped us. That’s why our speed came back, but it was not enough.”
Stéphane Sarrazin: “It is always frustrating when you are not fastest, so it was a difficult race. But we achieved a podium and this is my first with TOYOTA Racing, so at least I am pleased with that.
We didn’t have the pace today with the 2012 car but we kept pushing. Now we will look at all the information we gained today and find areas to improve. I am looking forward to Spa where I hope we will be able to push Audi harder.”
Sébastien Buemi: “We did our best today but we were not able to fight for the win. Nevertheless it is still a podium so we should not be too disappointed; it is a solid start to the season especially considering we used the 2012 car.
We knew Audi had improved its performance with the new car so we could not expect to be the fastest here but we have lots we can learn from this weekend. We will move forward and improve for the second race; I can’t wait for Spa.”
Yoshiaki Kinoshita, Team President: “This was a tough race for us. Maybe it would have been a different story if we had been able to complete a dry practice session, but it is the same for all teams. Even though we brought our 2012 car here to Silverstone we hoped to challenge for the victory so it is disappointing to miss out.
But congratulations to Audi; as expected they have made a step forward over the winter and they performed well today. We have also found additional performance with our 2013-specification TS030 HYBRID so we are more eager than ever to see what it can do at Spa next time. We will work hard in the coming weeks to get back on the top step of the podium.”