RI­VALS RALLY FOR TOY­OTA

Ja­panese squad loses his­toric win in fi­nal mo­ments

Motor Sport News - - Headline News - By Edd Straw

Porsche team prin­ci­pal An­dreas Seidl has ad­mit­ted “you wouldn’t wish on your worst en­emy” the way Toy­ota lost a vic­tory that would have fi­nally ended its 22-year Le Mans 24 Hours jinx in the dy­ing min­utes of the race.

The #5 Toy­ota, shared by An­thony David­son, Se­bastien Buemi and Kazuki Naka­jima was cruis­ing to vic­tory on the penul­ti­mate lap when the car slowed with an en­gine prob­lem, sus­pected to be re­lated to the tur­bocharger. Naka­jima stopped the car on the start/fin­ish straight, with Neel Jani in the #2 Porsche he shared with Marc Lieb and Ro­main Du­mas pass­ing it for the lead with just 3m21s of the race re­main­ing and on the fi­nal lap.

“To give away such a great race this way is some­thing you wouldn’t wish on your worst en­emy,” said Seidl. “But this is a sport with all its highs and lows, and that’s also why we love it.”

Mark Web­ber, who led the race in the #1 Porsche be­fore drop­ping back with cool­ing prob­lems, said it was “hard to take” for Toy­ota. This was echoed through­out the Le Mans pad­dock, with many teams and driv­ers across all classes re­act­ing in a sim­i­lar way.

The mo­ment the car crossed the line, David­son – who has yet to win Le Mans in nine at­tempts, tweeted “I lit­er­ally have no words…” be­fore re­veal­ing Naka­jima said he was “ready to cry” as he fin­ished the race.

David­son had re­vealed in the build up to the race that he had never seen such fo­cus on Le Mans from Toy­ota in his six years with the man­u­fac­turer. To some in the com­pany, win­ning Le Mans has be­come an ob­ses­sion after pre­vi­ous near-misses, most fa­mously with the Toy­ota GT-ONE in 1998 and ’99. To have snatched de­feat from the jaws of vic­tory in this way adds to the leg­end of the man­u­fac­turer’s Le Mans hoodoo.

Team pres­i­dent Toshio Sato re­it­er­ated Toy­ota’s com­mit­ment to the race amid sug­ges­tions from some that this might prove one dis­ap­point­ment too many de­spite its long-term com­mit­ment to LMP1 and Le Mans.

“I have no words to de­scribe our emo­tions to­day,” he said. “It’s sim­ply heart­break­ing but we will re­turn stronger and more de­ter­mined to win.”

Even the win­ning driv­ers in the

#2 Porsche, who were nat­u­rally de­lighted by their vic­tory, felt sorry for the win­ners.

“I feel heart­bro­ken for the Toy­ota driv­ers,” said Neel Jani. “I think ev­ery rac­ing driver knows how this feels. I still have no words to de­scribe win­ning the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This is re­ally sur­real.”

The #8 Audi of Oliver Jarvis, Lu­cas di Grassi and Loic Du­val also ben­e­fited from the fate of the lead­ing Toy­ota. A Le Mans podium was about to take place with­out an Audi driver on it for the first time this cen­tury, only for them to move up from fourth when the troubled Toy­ota was not clas­si­fied.

Although Naka­jima did com­plete the fi­nal lap of the race on electrical power only, he did not do so fast enough to meet the reg­u­la­tion de­mand­ing all cars do so in a lap­time ‘in­fe­rior’ to six min­utes. Naka­jima’s lap lasted al­most twice that, mean­ing that it was not clas­si­fied even though it was the only car to com­plete the full 384 laps other than the win­ning Porsche.

“Quite hon­estly, we’d much rather see the Toy­ota guys up here,” said Jarvis. “It’s not how we want to be stand­ing on the podium. Yeah, we fought hard, we did our jobs, but ev­ery­one can agree that’s not how any­one wanted the race to fin­ish.

“I don’t know the Toy­ota guys per­son­ally, I know the driv­ers and the team bosses, but I’m ab­so­lutely gut­ted for them. I would def­i­nitely give up my spot here to see them up here [as win­ners] and to see the re­ward for their hard work. This race can hap­pen 1000 times and you will never see this again.

“My thoughts are with Toy­ota, not with our own per­for­mance. For now, we con­grat­u­late the Porsche guys, but I have a very heavy heart. I’m go­ing to be leav­ing here with a very strange feel­ing, as a lot of peo­ple will.”

Porsche LMP1 vice pres­i­dent Fritz Enzinger paid trib­ute to Toy­ota’s per­for­mance even though that risked over­shad­ow­ing Porsche’s record-ex­tend­ing 18th Le Mans win.

“I would like to ex­press my re­spect for the sen­sa­tional per­for­mance which Toy­ota gave in this race,” he said. “It was a great fight with them. Shortly be­fore the fin­ish we had set­tled for sec­ond.”

Stricken Toy­ota lost the win in the fi­nal min­utes of Le Mans Toy­ota garage was scene of ab­ject de­spair at the fin­ish

Porsche took sec­ond LMP1 win after fight with Toy­ota squad

In con­trast to Toy­ota, Porsche cel­e­brated a shock vic­tory with just three min­utes left

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