STUNNING COMEBACK HANDS CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD TO TOYOTA
Toyota Racing has staged a stunning comeback from an early crash to grab a podium position in the world’s most demanding sports-car race, the 24-hour classic at Le Mans in France.
A solid haul of points from a race of remarkably fluctuating fortunes leaves Toyota leading both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles in the World Endurance Championship with five rounds remaining in the 2014 season.
Toyota Racing team members worked miracles in the pits to enable Anthony Davidson, Nicholas Lapierre and Sébastien Buemi to storm back into contention after their #8 Toyota TS040 Hybrid was involved in a multi-car crash in treacherously wet conditions within the first 100 minutes.
While heavy damage, particularly to the front of the car, was repaired inside an hour, the #8 car returned to the track outside the top 40 and eight laps behind the leading car – its stablemate #7 Toyota TS040 hybrid.
The three drivers responded aggressively to the challenge, consistently moving through the field with their eyes fixed on an unlikely podium finish.
Remarkably that goal, which looked so unlikely after just two hours of the race, was achieved within the last two hours and the #8 crossed the line for a bitter-sweet third place.
The second Toyota (driven by Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin and Kazuki Nakajima) was not as fortunate after it appeared to be headed for victory well into the second half of the race.
It started from pole position and built a sizeable lead, but an electrical fault in the 15th hour forced its retirement.
While being denied the biggest prize in sports-car racing, Toyota was able to build on its victories in the two previous races this year and now leads the manufacturers’ championship by the narrowest of margins, a single point.
Team president Yoshiaki Kinoshita summed up the team’s feelings after an unpredictable and challenging race where the TS040 Hybrid race cars demonstrated the speed required for victory.
“We will come back stronger for this experience, and we have a world championship to fight for, starting at the next race,” Kinoshita said.
“All team members, including the drivers, performed brilliantly in this race – not only to repair the damage, but to stay positive and bring home third position.”