This weekend saw two-time FIA WEC World Champion Mike Conway secure victory in the opening round of the 2023 campaign with victory in the 1000 Miles of Sebring, alongside Kamui Kobayashi and José María López in the #7 GR010 HYBRID.
The early signs were good for the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing #7 car as it showed exceptional pace during Wednesday's opening practice sessions. Mike's teammate, Kamui Kobayashi set the fastest lap of the day in the #7 GR010 HYBRID - setting the quickest lap ever for a Hypercar in an official WEC session at the historic Sebring circuit.
The team were able to take their good form into Saturday's qualifying session, with Kamui achieving a P3 finish and putting the #7 in a strong position to challenge for race victory.
Mike was selected to drive at the start of the race and as soon as the green flags were waved, the team were immediately in a tense battle at the front of the field, with Mike doing well to see off the challenge of those behind who were threatening to take 3rd position.
The battle was put on hold shortly after as a full safety car was deployed after an accident involving a GT Car during the fifth lap. The lead Ferrari decided to make a pit-stop which handed P2 to the #7 car. As things resumed, the two Toyota's began to exert their dominance and pull further clear of the competition.
As the driver changes took place with two hours on the clock, both Toyota's had built up enough of a lead to stay ahead of the competition as Kamui jumped into the #7 and immediately put the leading sister car under pressure.
By the midway point of the race, the number #7 car was now leading and it looked increasingly likely that the two TOYOTA GAZOO Racing cars would be battling it out for victory having both pulled a lap clear of their rivals.
It was then up to Mike to secure victory and bring the #7 car home as he took control of the wheel with 47 minutes of the session remaining. He called upon his experience to keep a cool head and maintain the advantage over the sister car which was constantly pushing hard in an attempt to close the gap.
As the sun set in Florida, Mike cruised past the chequered flag to secure the win, finishing 2.168secs ahead of his nearest rival, the #8 sister car, to achieve maximum points for him and his team. An incredible result for Toyota who achieved a one-two finish to conquer the biggest-ever top-class grid for a WEC season-opener.
After the race, Mike reflected on what was a very enjoyable, yet emotional day for him.
"It’s a fantastic result to start the season with a one-two for the team. The race was very tight between our two cars so I’m really happy to pick up the win. Sebring is a very tricky, bumpy track where it is so easy to make a mistake, but everyone on car #7 did everything right. Kamui and José did a stellar job. It was emotional for me at the end because I was thinking about my Dad, who passed away a year ago. This one was for him.”
Mike's season will resume in Portugal on April 16th with the 6 Hours of Portimao, the second of seven races this season.