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A Podium for our Hybrid Heroes

In any other race, leading the field with less than half the distance remaining you could allow yourself to think that maybe, just maybe, the win was there for the taking. But this isn’t any race. This is the Le Mans 24 Hours…

Heartbreak for TOYOTA Racing

Having started from pole position, the #7 TS040 HYBRID of Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin and Kazuki Nakajima was controlling the race when disaster struck - and an electrical fault forced the car to retire from the race. The team’s spirit was lifted by a courageous third place finish for the #8 TS040 HYBRID of Anthony Davidson, Nicolas Lapierre and Sébastien Buemi, who studiously fought back from an early accident that cost them 50 minutes in repairs.

A pole position and third place on the grid meant that the race weekend started well for TOYOTA Racing, continuing the positive momentum garnered from two wins so far this year.

The weather played its part

Confidence was high in the team, and the drivers in both cars were expecting to be fighting for victory. Sadly, any realistic hope of a win for the #8 TS040 HYBRID was dashed when with 90 minutes gone, the heavens opened, and driving on slick tyres on a saturated circuit, Lapierre was involved in a multi-car accident on the Mulsanne straight.

Fortunately he was able to nurse the badly damaged car back to the pits where the team worked quickly to make repairs and send it back in to the thick of the race.

The accident caused a further delay, when aerodynamic balance issues prompted another stop eight hours into the race where the team attempted more bodywork repairs.

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Leading the pack

Meanwhile, the #7 TS040 HYBRID was ticking the laps off at the front of the field as the drivers found their rhythm around the Circuit de la Sarthe, and everything was operating like clockwork.

Then, 13 hours and 53 minutes in, an unexpected electrical problem relating to the wiring loom forced Nakajima to stop the car at Arnage corner, and the dream was snuffed out for another year. After all the team’s efforts, this was a painful blow.

Toyota Racing

24hrs Le Mans highlights

The fightback

Even with the heartbreak of the retirement there was still hope of a positive result for the team as the drivers in the #8 TS040 HYBRID clawed back their deficit. With a consistent pace they eventually moved into the top four and within reach of a podium place but as everyone knows, until you cross the finish line anything can happen.

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And it did. In a result that looked completely out of question after the first two hours, a technical issue to a competitor car meant Davidson, Lapierre and Buemi could reap the reward their dogged determination deserved with a fine third place, extending their lead in the World Championship, and recording TOYOTA’s fifth podium finish at Le Mans.

After the race Alex Wurz summed up the mood in the team “There’s not much to say other than it is really disappointing. I said earlier this week that you don’t win Le Mans, it lets you win and today it didn’t let us win”.

After the disappointment of the weekend the TOYOTA Racing team now have the chance to recharge their batteries and look forward to the next race in Austin on 20th September. With renewed determination, let’s hope the team return to winning ways…

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If the action at Le Mans has left you wanting more, check out a few fun facts about our race winning cars and team in our TOYOTA Racing infographic.

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