TOYOTA GAZOO Racing second in Le Mans thriller
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s winning streak at the Le Mans 24 Hours came to a valiant end after an epic day-long battle for an historic victory in the centenary edition of the legendary French race.
After five consecutive Le Mans wins, the World Champions took on the challenge of a record 16-car Hypercar field featuring competitors from Cadillac, Ferrari, Peugeot and Porsche. A sell-out 325,000 crowd witnessed an exceptionally close contest featuring drama and excitement until the very end.
Last year’s winners Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa, in the #8 GR010 HYBRID, saw off all competitors bar one. After 24 relentless hours of racing, the #8 crossed the line in second place, 1min 21.793secs behind the winning #51 Ferrari.
Only one GR010 HYBRID reached the chequered flag at the end of 342 laps. The #7 of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López saw their victory hopes dashed through no fault of their own, by an accident after eight hours.
Sébastien was leading the opening stages after starting third on the grid.
An exciting battle ignited immediately with spectacular wheel-to-wheel racing among the top 10 through the opening hours. Two rain showers added to the drama and positions changed as frequently as the conditions, with the GR010 HYBRIDs staying in contention during the first third of the race.
After the #94 Peugeot and #50 Ferrari dropped back, the #8 fought a titanic battle with the #51 Ferrari, initially leading in the early morning until it dropped to second when pitting to fix a damaged front splitter and right rear tyre puncture.
The leading pair kept up a relentless pace as the momentum swung back and forth. After 20 hours of racing, only three seconds separated the two leaders and there was no respite in the closing stages.
When Ryo took over with two hours to go following an impressive quadruple stint from Brendon, he was 16secs behind. He set about closing the gap but moments later the #8 went off at Arnage, hitting the barriers and damaging the front and rear bodywork. The #8 retained second place despite losing three minutes.
After those repairs, Ryo returned to the track but the contest with the leading Ferrari was over, with the priority now on reaching the chequered flag safely in a second place which, despite the disappointment, extends their drivers’ World Championship lead to 25 points.
“It was a tough race. At some point it was not easy just to stay on track due to the changing conditions early in the race. We didn’t have the ultimate pace to win but we gave it our best shot and we pushed them all the way. Ferrari were faster than us, so we had to push very hard to stay with them and that meant taking no margin. We tried everything to win so we have no regrets. Congratulations to Ferrari for their victory. They were very impressive from qualifying onwards. Now we will look towards the World Championship and work hard to come back stronger in the next races.” Sébastien Buemi
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s advantage in the manufacturers’ World Championship has been cut to 18 points over Ferrari, with three races remaining. The next race, the 6 Hours of Monza, takes place in four weeks, on 9 July.