Toyota Gazoo Racing will celebrate an anniversary, when the FIA World Endurance Championship races at Portimao this weekend.
Or perhaps we should just say Toyota, since the road to this milestone, started when the team was just named Toyota.
The race in Portugal will be World Championship race number 100 for Toyota in sportscars.
It all began in 1983 at Fuji, where they competed with a Group C car named 83C.
In 1992, we had reached the time for the first TS010 model, with the Japanese brand trying to beat Nissan, who had just managed to take the very first Japanese win at Le Mans the year prior to that – something that Toyota would have to wait until 2018 to equal. They managed to win a World Championship round at Monza i 1992, giving them even more hope for the coming years.
Tom Kristensen was around the TS010 programme too, but wasn’t selected for the Le Mans endeavour after all.
They were very close at winning the 1999, when they bought the TS020 – also called Toyota GT-One, but a puncture in the very final hour of the race, made all hopes of a Japanese win disappear, and they had to settle for second.
They went on to race in Formula 1 for almost 10 years, before returning to Le Mans and the World Championship in 2012 with the TS030 model.
That model was replaced by the TS040 in 2014, which clinched the World Championship title. Their battery technology was much better than the Flywheel technology used by Audi in their R18 model.
The TS050 was introduced in 2016, which was another improvement of the car, and that model would keep racing until November 2020, being replaced by the current GR010 Hypercar.
Out of the 99 races entered, there have been 31 victories for Toyota, while they have finished on the podium in more than 50% of the races.
Sebastien Buemi has competed in 60 of those races, and is the Toyota Gazoo Racing driver with the most experience in the FIA World Endurance Championship. Kazuki Nakajima has 55 starts for the team, since he wasn’t part of the programme from the very start, and he had to miss Sp Francorchamps 2015, due to a very heavy shunt in the Thursday practice session.
Buemi has won two World Championships with the teams, in 2014 and 2018/19 respectively, and is the currently Championship leader alongside Brendon Hartley and Kazuki Nakajima in car #8, after the first round of the FIA WEC 2021.
The team did suffer with some technical issues throughout the Spa Francorchamps weekend, which especially hit the defending champions in #7, with Mike Conway, Jose Maria Lopez and Kamui Kobayashi. The team was under intense pressure from both Alpine Elf Matmut #36 and the United Autosports #22 LMP2 team. Glickenhaus Racing will bring one of their brand new Hypercars for this race, so it’s even more necessary to run a faultless race this time around.
The FIA World Endurance Championship round in Portugal is an 8 hours race, with the qualifying being run Saturday evening at 19.00 CET, and with the race starting at 12.00 CET. The qualifying, plus the build-up, the race itself, and post-race celebrations can be viewed via the paid Live Streaming on FIAWEC.com, with English commentators throughout the sessions.