Nyck De Vries, Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway after winning WEC's 2024 6 Hours of Imola
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By Adam Proud profile image Adam Proud
3 min read

How Toyota's WEC Imola victory came as a shock to itself

12 months ago you wouldn't have thought it, but Toyota's win in Imola was a shock to everyone

This time last year, if someone told you a Toyota win in the World Endurance Championship would come as a shock just 12 months later, I’d like to bet you’d have laughed them out of the room.

But the 6 Hours of Imola provided just that: a Toyota victory that very few expected.

Even as the weekend wore on, it was anticipated Ferrari would take the spoils on home soil in the Hypercar class, and a one-two-three in qualifying for the Italian manufacturer only strengthened that likelihood.

But an error on the race strategy when the rain came proved costly as all three Ferrari-powered cars dropped down the order.

That paved the way for a Toyota victory and their first of 2024 following Porsche’s win in Qatar.

The Toyota racing in the rain at Imola

However for seasoned driver Mike Conway, it was not the result the team expected by any means.

“Yeah we thought they [Ferrari] were very quick and we were hoping for a podium if all went well and the strategy played out,” he said speaking to WEC TV following the race. 

“But we could tell on the first stint that we could definitely keep pace with the Porsches at least, and once I managed to get by one of them I thought ‘OK, game on here’, and we could maybe bring a fight to the Ferraris. 

“They were quicker though and they were pulling away. But just the way the race worked out, obviously with the mixed conditions and things like that, some mistakes made on track. 

The #7 Toyota leading the 2024 WEC Imola 6 Hours
Credit: PHD Photo

“But we were pretty faultless on our side so that’s what made the difference.”

The Toyota cars had struggled to make any inroads with the car at the beginning of the season, with tyre and weight issues coming to light in the 2024 Prologue - which only got more frustrating during the first race of the season as the No.7 car finished a lap down on the eventual Porsche Penske winner.

But with the characteristics of Imola differing to those of the Losail International Circuit, the Japanese manufacturer had no such woes this time around.

Although it was a race victory on paper, de Vries put it down to one key thing on how his team got the better of the opposition. 

“I think this one is purely won on execution and strategy, and the right calls at the right time,” he explained. 

“Plus [the] conditions were very tricky so it wasn’t won on pace, it was just done by good execution. 

“I think that made us even more proud because it was unexpected.”

Conway backed up this “proud” feeling, saying the jubilant scenes in the pits at the chequered flag were down to the hard work that had gone into Sunday’s win.

Credit: PHD Photo

“It was one of those ones that [wasn’t] expected, especially at the beginning. It just came to us, not easily, we obviously executed well and we did everything right to make it happen,” he said.

“But still the stress at the end, I think my heart rate was higher in the pit box than it was in the car so it was intense. 

“It’s like a release isn’t it, as soon as you cross the line and the guys were super happy, and everyone’s proud. 

“We knew it wasn’t an easy one to achieve, and we managed it.”

Drivers are faced with another six hour race in less than a month's time at Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps circuit, and with a win now under Toyota’s belt, there will be a certain degree of confidence as they head to the Ardennes region.

By Adam Proud profile image Adam Proud
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