Toyota Claims Another Le Mans Victory

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Toyota Gazoo Racing's Kazuki Nakajima, Sebastien Buemi and Brendon Hartley drove the No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid to victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. (Toyota Photo)
Toyota Gazoo Racing's Kazuki Nakajima, Sebastien Buemi and Brendon Hartley drove the No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid to victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. (Toyota Photo)

LE MANS, France – Toyota claimed its third-straight overall victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans on Sunday, with Kazuki Nakajima, Sebastien Buemi and Brendon Hartley piloting the No. 8 Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 Hybrid to victory at Circuit de la Sarthe.

It’s the third-straight triumph for Nakajima and Buemi, who was joined by Fernando Alonso on the top step of the podium in 2018 and ’19. Hartley won overall at Le Mans for the second time after claiming his first victory in 2017 as part of the Porsche program.

The 88th 24 Hours of Le Mans, which was held without fans due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was the final event for Toyota’s TS050 Hybrid.

“It was special to be in the TS050 Hybrid for its last race and to be in the car for the last victory at Le Mans three in a row,” said Nakajima. “The race was up and down – or down and up. Everyone did a great job, the whole team. Somehow we had more luck than the other car. It was a very long race. Once the issues started, we only wanted to win. It was quite tough but I’m really happy to be a part of this team and am looking forward to the future.”​

Toyota was in command throughout the 24-hour classic, but it wasn’t always the No. 8 at the front of the field. The team’s No. 7, which was shared by Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez, appeared in control through the early hours of the race.

However, a 30 minute visit to the garage to fix a turbo problem took the No. 7 entry out of contention for the overall victory. At the time time of the stop they had more than a lap advantage on the No. 8, which had battled through its own issues, but ended up seven laps behind following the stop in the garage.

“I’m proud of my teammates and all the team,” said Hartley. “I was a steep learning curve for me and Sébastien and Kazuki helped me get to grips with the car. It feels great, but hasn’t really sunk in yet. It doesn’t feel the same as previous wins; we miss the fans. But it feels great to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the second time, despite the mechanical issues we had.”​

“It feels amazing to have won three times. I’m feeling great. I think my teammates did an amazing job,” said Buemi. “We spent a lot of time preparing. It wasn’t easy, we started off with a puncture, then brake issues and everything seemed to be against us. We lost two laps changing faulty parts. At that point, we thought we’d lost our chance of winning. But we pushed hard and an hour later our luck changed; we ended up leading and then won the race. It just proves that anything can happen at Le Mans.”

The misfortune of the No. 7 entry ended up working in the favor of Rebellion Racing. The team was able to put the No. 1 Rebellion entry shared by Gustavo Menezes, Bruno Senna and Norman Nato into second, a position the team held until the checkered flag.

Rebellion looked on its way to a double podium with the sister No. 3 car driven by Romain Dumas, Nathanael Berthon and Louis Deletraz, but a late incident dropped the No. 3 off the podium and put the No. 7 Toyota into third.

In LMP2, United Autosports proved to be the class of the tight 24-car field. The No. 22 United Autosports entry driven by Paul di Resta, Filipe Albuquerque and Phil Hanson emerged with the victory, but not without late drama.

In the final laps Hanson, who was at the wheel of the No. 22, was forced to make an extra pit stop for fuel. That brought the No. 38 JOTA Sport Oreca of Antonio Felix da Costa, Anthony Davidson and Roberto Gonzalez into contention for the class victory.

Thankfully for Hanson and United Autosports, JOTA Sport called Davidson, who was at the wheel of the No. 38, into the pits with two laps left for a splash of gas. The United Autosports No. 22 ended up claiming the class victory by roughly 40 seconds.

The GTE Pro class battle went to the No. 97 Aston Martin of Alex Lynn, Maxime Martin and Harry Tincknell, who outran of the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari of James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Daniel Serra in the late stages of the race. It was Aston Martin’s first victory at Le Mans since 2017.

Finally, Aston Martin completed a sweep of the GTE classes with a victory in GTE Am. The No. 90 TF Sport Aston Martin of Jonathan Adam, Charlie Eastwood and Salih Yoluc topped the GTE Am class, taking the victory after a suspension issue dropped the factory-backed No. 98 Aston Martin out of contention.