Unfortunately for Toyota, technical malfunctions caused major problems for the TOYOTA GAZOO RACING Europe team in the Spa FIA World Endurance Championship round in recent weeks. Both TS050 Hybrid vehicles suffered electronic malfunctions, causing the second place number 8 car more than half a minute in a very important race.
Brendon Hartley and Kobayasahi were sharing the number 8 TS050 with Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Beumi. It was only after three hours in when Nakajima and Beumi exited the pits when the vehicles struggled to pick up speed, forcing Kobayashi to race away from his team mate due to experiencing one too many reset procedures at this point. Hartley continued on for a short time more, although he too was also unable to pick up significant speed until he finally reached the Kemmel Straight after Eau Rouge, finishing his out lap, while being 40s down on his teammate. The technical director of the Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe team, Pascal Vasselon interpreted that the engines were forced into protection mode due to an electronic malfunction.
It was later discovered that this glitch had hit the number 7 car which was driven by Mike Conway, Jose Maria Lopez and Kamui Kobayashi on one occasion, however it has occurred twice for the sister car. Kobayashi was fast to act when the malfunction first made an appearance, which occurred at the end of the third hour, therefore fortunately the amount of time lost was reasonably short for this team.
After a level of integration Vasselon was able to confirm that the electrical malfunction was caused in the Hybrid vehicles due to a lack of engine torque when accelerating from a very low speed. He also explained that they know what the issue was, however they are currently still investigating why this caused the engine protection mode to trigger in both cars and more severely in the number 8 vehicle, rather than the number 7.
Nonetheless, the number 7 Toyota did end up receiving a win by 34s after Buemi had to make a quick run for fuel, two laps before the finish line. Spectstors could spot the turning point for the Toyota Hybrid when Conway was given a slick set of tyres on a drying race track, where others were still racing with wet Michelins from the beginning of the race that required an extra pit stop later on.
The Hybrids that suffered an electronic malfunction was something that Toyota has never experienced before. For the moment it has been suggested that the issue could possibly be linked to the circuit specific settings in the vehicles, but this is yet to be confirmed.
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