Conway admits #7 Toyota "lucked in" to Shanghai win
The #7 Toyota "lucked in" to victory in the Shanghai FIA World Endurance Championship round over the faster sister car, admits Mike Conway.
Conway and his teammates in the #7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez, secured their second successive victory in a stop-start race marked by multiple safety car periods and poor weather.
The decisive moment in the battle between the two Toyotas came in hour four, when the #7 car made its second pitstop a lap earlier than the #8 during a caution period and ended up gaining a major advantage.
It meant Sebastien Buemi, Fernando Alonso and Kazuki Nakajima lost out on what would have otherwise likely been a third victory of the 2018/19 superseason, with the gap between the two sets of teammates in the drivers' standings cut to just five points as a result.
"We lucked in [to victory] because the lap after we pitted the safety car didn't go through the pits and then they got held at the red light," Conway told Motorsport.com.
"They [the #8 drivers] were very good all race, all three of them. We got the luck today, but that's the way it goes sometimes in endurance racing.
"There have been races when we've missed out on the win though misfortune."
#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050: Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez
Photo by: JEP / LAT Images
Buemi said he was "sad and disappointed" with the outcome because he felt the #8 car was "clearly quicker" than the #7, unlike in the previous race at Fuji where Conway, Lopez and Kobayashi took their first win of the year.
"We stopped a lap after car 7 and basically we lost massively under the safety car," reflected Buemi. "We found ourselves with a 20s margin before the stop, and 25s behind after the stop.
"Kazuki and Fernando did a good job to catch back, but it was not enough. A bit sad and disappointed to finish second.
"I’ve no regrets about Fuji because we were slower and they fully deserved the win. Today I’m disappointed because I felt we were clearly quicker."
Toyota team director Rob Leupen explained that the #7 had to come in at that point because it needed to refuel, and the team didn't want to pit the #8 prior to that because of the poor weather conditions.
"We had car 8 in front, and car 7 needed to pit because it had less fuel," said Leupen. "It didn’t have enough fuel to stay out and then they pitted. They got the benefit in comparison to car 8.
"Looking at this afterwards, this is a mistake. But at that moment we took the decision to keep car 8 in front, because if there had been a red flag, it could have been that no Toyota would be in front.
"We didn’t want to benefit one or other car, but at that moment you had to take a decision. We took a decision for the advantage of the team, to keep a Toyota in front."
Additional reporting by Jacobo Vega
Overall podium: winners #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050: Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez, second place #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050: Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima, Fernando Alonso, third place, #11 SMP Racing BR Engineering BR
Photo by: JEP / LAT Images
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