TOYOTA WINS LE MANS
Toyota’s persistence, patience and perseverance has paid dividends with Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Fernando Alonso in their TS050 Hybrid winning this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours race after 388 tense and often dramatic laps at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López, who led for long periods in the other TS050 Hybrid, made it a perfect result for Toyota over the June 16-17 weekend with second place in front of 256,900 fans.
“This is definitely the biggest win of my career,” said Buemi. “I struggle to realise it right now because in the last few laps I couldn’t forget 2016 when we led until the last lap.”
Toyota had entered 47 cars at Le Mans prior to this year's race and finished on the podium six times, including runner-up five times. It has become only the second Japanese manufacturer to win the race, held this year for the 86th time.
The two TS050 Hybrids were evenly matched throughout the 5,286km and swapped places several times during a race which featured its share of drama for the leaders.
The difference between the two cars came down to an impressive overnight stint from double Formula One World Champion, Alonso, who retook the lead from its sister car.
“It has been amazing. We know how important and iconic Le Mans is in the world of motorsport and as a team we achieved an amazing result,” said Alonso.
“Every moment was a reminder of how tough and long this race is, anything can happen so we tried to execute our race and stay calm. Happily everything worked well. The race was hard because the two cars were very close, within one minute after 23 hours.”
The result is a culmination of intense and determined efforts by Toyota Gazoo Racing colleagues from Higashi-Fuji and Cologne to continually enhance its hybrid-electric technology, which won this year's race using 35 percent less fuel than in 2012, when it returned to endurance racing.
Toyota Gazoo Racing’s double podium at Le Mans cements the team’s leading position in the World Endurance Championship (WEC) after finishing 1-2 in the first race of the 2018-19 14-month Super Season at Spa in Belgium
Porsche, meanwhile, won both GTE classes. In the pro-category, Kévin Estre (France), Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium) and Michael Christensen (Denmark) held the lead for almost the entire distance and controlled the race in their 911 RSR, claiming class victory number 106 for Porsche.
The sister car (#91) shared by Richard Lietz (Austria), Frédéric Makowiecki (France) and Gianmaria Bruni (Italy) finished second in the GTE-Pro class.
Technical problems threw the #93 911-RSR far behind during the night, Patrick Pilet (France), Earl Bamber (New Zealand) and Nick Tandy (Great Britain) losing 25 minutes due to repairs and ultimately finished on eleventh.
Finally the #77 Porsche fielded by Dempsey-Proton Racing won the GTE-Am class with Porsche Young Professional Matt Campbell (Australia), Christian Ried (Germany) and Porsche Junior Julien Andlauer (France) sharing the driving.
At just 18, Julien Andlauer made some history of his own by becoming the youngest class winner at Le Mans.
The winning Toyota TSO50 Hybrid of Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Fernando Alonso.
The GTE-Pro class-winning Porsche of Kévin Estre, Laurens Vanthoor, and Michael Christensen.