August 1, 2021

Kobayashi recalls stoppage that cost Toyota Monza WEC lead

The Japanese manufacturer was enjoying its most dominant display of the hypercar era so far on the WEC’s first visit to the Italian circuit, with the #7 GR010 Hybrid of Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez pulling out a comfortable lead over the two Glickenhaus 007 LMHs and the sole grandfathered Alpine A480 campaigned by Signatech.

However, just after the four-hour mark, Kobayashi was forced to park the #7 car on the run to the Ascari chicane with suspected technical issues, allowing Romain Dumas to come through and take an unlikely lead in the #709 Glickenhaus.

Fortunately for Toyota, the American boutique manufacturer was forced to make an unscheduled pitstop for a precautionary brake change, costing the #709 car several laps.

A late battle with Alpine for victory also failed to materialise after Toyota was able to pit under a full-course yellow for a late splash-and-dash, retaining the overall lead over the A480 driven by Nicolas Lapierre, Matthieu Vaxiviere and Andre Negrao.

Following the race, Toyota said it will investigate the issue that caused Kobayashi to crawl to a halt when both its hybrid-powered hypercars are shipped back to its base at Cologne in Germany.

Recalling the incident that dropped the #7 crew 40s behind the Glickenhaus before it managed to regain the lead, Kobayashi said: “The car just shut down somehow, we didn’t know what was going on.

“We lost all the powertrain. [There was an] error message on my display and obviously I had no power at all. So I just communicated to the engineer and the call was that we need to stop the car and obviously we lost so much time [doing so]. 

“At that point we had to find a safe place [to stop] but there was no safe place. So it cost us even more time. 

“It’s a bit of a shame because it looked good [until that point] but as soon as we stopped we needed to reboot the car. We lost I think around a minute, so it cost us a lot of time. 

“But I think we did a great job, we came back [to recover] the [lost] time and finally we came back to win. Thanks to all the team we had a great car.

“It was a shame for the reboot stuff but we got quite similar things in Spa, so we still need to understand what’s going on.”

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Although Toyota has won all three races at the start of the season, it has also faced some teething issues with its new hypercar contender.

While the #7 car has been saddled with bulk of the issues so far, the sister #8 GR010 of Kazuki Nakajima, Sebastien Buemi and Brendon Hartley had to make four long trips to the garage with its own set of problems at Monza, including a fuel pressure issue.

That dropped the trio to 33rd position and last among the classified finishers, 43 laps down on the winning car.

Conway admitted that Toyota has “some work to do” to sort the reliability of its hypercar ahead of the double-points Le Mans 24 Hours round in August.

“It was a hard fought race, plenty of ups and downs, as Kamui mentioned the issues we had,” said Conway, who won last year’s LMP1 title with Kobayashi and Lopez. “Unfortunately car #8 also had issues. But we saw as soon as Glickenhaus were in the lead they had an issue as well. 

“A hard six hours for sure but definitely good momentum to go into Le Mans with. But we still got some work to do in terms of reliability. 

“We have to keep working hard until Le Mans and hopefully try and win that. It’s going to be [won the] hard way. We see that six races are hard enough, 24 for sure is going to be hard.”

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