Mike Conway and his #7 crew in their GR010 HYBRID battled back from misfortune on lap one to claim a hard-fought second place finish and with it Vice-Champion status in the season finale of the FIA World Endurance Championship in Bahrain.
The seventh and final round of the 2023 campaign saw Mike and his TOYOTA GAZOO Racing teammates, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López, headed to the desert setting of Bahrain lying only 15 points behind the leading sister #8 car as they looked to claim the title to round out a brilliant 2023 season on a high.
Saturday saw teammate, Kamui Kobayashi, claim second place on the grid in qualifying, from the sister #8 GR010 HYBRID, but the fight would still remain firmly on for championship honours.
Mike would take the green flag and followed the leading #8 car into the first corner but the #7 crew’s title chances were derailed a few metres later when Mike was knocked out of second place at the first corner by the #2 Cadillac, dropping him to the back of the field.
Undeterred, Mike would immediately began a stirring fight back, pulling off a series of decisive overtaking manoeuvres to pass the Peugeots and Porsches within opening first 35 minutes to get back into the top five, showcasing stellar speed behind the wheel of the GR010 HYBRID.
As the first pit stops approached at the one-hour mark, Mike would make two more stunning overtakes to return to the top three, passing the #50 Ferrari before battling his way beyond the #38 Hertz Team Jota Porsche into third a few moments later.
Mike would close relentlessly on the #51 Ferrari in second place, but tyre degradation would see him unable to pass. Just before the start of hour three, Mike handed the #7 to Kamui Kobayashi, who quickly set a new fastest lap and made the move on the #51 Ferrari for second shortly after.
As the race entered its last two hours, the penultimate driver changes saw Mike return to the #7, as he once again showcased consistent speed to avoid any threat from the Ferrari's behind. And he would hand over to Kamui for the final hour as he would take the chequered flag in second place, setting the fastest lap in the process.
Overall, the result would see Mike and the #7 crew claim second place in the championship standings, and although they did not claim the title, it is a season they can look back on fondly. The #7 crew were the most winningest team in 2023, having scored four race wins from seven races, narrowly missing out on setting the all time record for wins in a season to finish the season on 145 points.
Reflecting on the eventful season finale, Mike said:
“There are mixed emotions at the end of the season. We were coming into this race on the back foot, trying to make up some points on our sister car but the incident in turn one set us back. That made it difficult because I had to push to get past a lot of cars, which was hard on the tyres. We did our best but second was the most we could achieve today. Congratulations to car #8 on the title, it is well deserved. Big thanks to everyone on car #7 for working so hard this year, including my team-mates Kamui and José who always did a solid job. We had a strong season and to win four times was great.”