TOY­OTA WINS LE MANS

Motor Equipment News - - FRONT PAGE - By Ross Mackay. Pho­tos by Toy­ota and Porsche.

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.

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