LE MANS AGONY FOR TOYOTA GAZOO RACING
Toyota Gazoo Racing endured a painful Le Mans 24 Hours in which pre-race promise did not translate into race success. At Sunday’s chequered flag, just one of the three TS050 Hybrid cars was still running, finishing in ninth place.
Hopes were high for a first Toyota win at the world’s most famous sportscar race, with the No7 car of Mike Conway, Kami Kobayashi and Stéphane Sarrazin leading from pole position for the first 10 hours, only to be forced into retirement by a clutch problem.
Conway reflected: “The race started off well with good pace and we were controlling it from the front. Unfortunately we had the issue which took us out of the race very quickly; from having no hint of trouble to retiring so quickly was tough to see. It was a real pity and to see the other Toyotas have problems around the same time was just massively disappointing. We were hoping at least one of us would be on the top step of the podium today but it wasn’t to be.”
The No8 Toyota of Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima were also in contention for victory for almost eight hours until an issue with the front motor required a two-hour stop in the pits. Nonetheless, the car rejoined the fray, coming home ninth and second in the LMP1 class, with Buemi setting fastest lap of the race.
The No9 machine of Nicolas Lapierre, Yuji Kunimoto and José María López was struck from behind by an LMP2 car, causing a puncture and damaging the hydraulics. As a result, the driver could not make gear shifts and the car was retired by the side of the track at 1.35am, just a few hundred metres from the pits.
The results also proved costly in terms of Toyota Gazoo Racing’s campaign in the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship. Le Mans, the third round of the series, offered double points, so Porsche’s victory has given the team a 36.5-point lead in both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ title races.
Work will now start on understanding the issues encountered during the race and preparing the team for the next round of the WEC, the 6 Hours of Nürburgring on 16 July.
Le Mans 24 Hours results:
1st No2 Porsche (Bernhard/Bamber/Hartley) 367 laps
2nd No38 Jackie Chan DC (Tung/Laurent/Jarvis) +1 lap
3rd No13 Rebellion (Piquet/Heinemeier Hansson/Beche) +3 laps
4th No37 Jackie Chan DC (Cheng/Gommendy/Brundle) +4 laps
5th No35 Alpine (Panciatici/Ragues/Negrao) +5 laps
6th No32 United Autosports (Owen/De Sadeleer/Albuquerque) +5 laps
9th No8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing (Buemi/Davidson/Nakajima) +9 laps