It was a great race in Brazil, we didn’t have the pace that we wanted, but because of that it probably made it the best race of the year for the fans. It was quite ‘nip and tuck’ between Porsche and us, and Audi were also not far behind.
Porsche were hands down faster on a single lap, there’s not doubt about it, and they trounced us in Qualifying. We think the gap in pace came because they didn’t have the disadvantage of the high altitude thanks to their turbo engine. Our Toyota is the only non-turbo, naturally aspirated engined car in the class, so we have a greater disadvantage in the less dense air 800m above sea level in Sao Paulo.
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We reckon we lost about 10 per cent of power (roughly 50bhp) compared with races at sea level. Surprisingly, when at tracks like Fuji and Spa – which are 400 metres above sea level – we didn’t really notice a power loss. It seems like those last 400 metres are where the power loss really becomes an issue.
Even so, the only place in Brazil we were slower was up the hill out of the final corner, with the long incline really showing up the power loss. In contrast, Fuji’s straight is very flat, so that probably helped to mask the power loss there.
In Brazil, it was clear to see we were struggling from the off. FP1 wasn’t strong, though things did progress in Qualifying. We still thought we were beaten for outright pace, so when it came to the race we were actually pleasantly surprised that we could challenge for the victory, and that the Porsche wasn’t able to pull a big gap on us.
My teammate Sebastien [Buemi] and I drove out of our skins to carve our way through the traffic as best we could, to try and reduce the deficit to Porsche when we were in free air. We managed to hang onto them just enough to ensure it came down to the last 20 laps of the race.
We decided to switch to a new set of Michelins, Porsche decided to try and do a stint and a half on the same tyre. I was hunting down leader Neel Jani and gaining by about half a second a lap on the fresher rubber, eating into his 13sec lead, so it was all set to be a great final showdown.
It was then that Mark Webber unfortunately had a huge smash at the last corner before the finish line. That ended the race prematurely and we never found out what the true result would have been.
Even though I knew it had probably cost us a shout at the win, when I saw the car in the smash my heart did stand still. It was a big one, and whenever one of your fellow competitors ends up in a big crash, you’re always concerned for them.
When the team radioed in to say it was Mark my focus went to knowing he was ok. You’re instantly on the radio asking if the driver’s alright, so as soon as the team told me he was ok, it was a big relief. It was a lucky escape.
I couldn’t help but feeling a bit robbed as we’d lost our chance for a stab at victory. But it was a well-deserved win for Porsche and we had good fun trying to hunt them down. It just wasn’t meant to be for us that weekend.
Anyway, we got the main job done, which was to win the Constructors’ Championship for Toyota. Before the race we knew the main thing we needed to achieve was to wrap up the Constructors’. We did that, so 2014 really was the perfect year.
Watch Toyota’s video review of Sao Paulo below
Being World Champion
I’ve won championships before back in karting so I know it’s a feeling that lasts forever, it’s written in the history books and nobody can take that away from you. I’ll forever be able to say I am the 2014 FIA World Endurance Champion, and I’ll always be able to look back at this year and say I was on top of the world. I’ll always look back on it fondly.
I experience it now when I look back to the mid-90s when I was karting. When I look back to ’94 and ’95, I know I won multiple British Championships, and that never leaves you. That’s why we all do it: to win Championships.
But after Bahrain this year I’ll admit it was relief, because when you’ve worked so hard for something you always fear it could slip away. The first emotion was relief, then it sinks in more and then you can appreciate how much of an amazing year it’s been.
In general it’s been a brilliant year for British motorsport. The guys in Brackley at Mercedes won the World Championship in F1, Lewis Hamilton wrapped up the Drivers’, I won in WEC, and then you’ve got Jolyon Palmer and Alex Lynn who are GP2 and GP3 Champions. It’s been an incredible year for British drivers and also the industry as a whole.
To top things off, I received a BRDC (British Racing Drivers’ Club) Gold Star which was a big surprise. To become one of the most recognised drivers in BRDC history is very special. Looking down through the list of drivers who have won Gold Stars and realising your name is on that list, it makes you realise what you’ve achieved.