Toyota Racing achieved an emotional runners-up finish in the Le Mans 24 Hours after a rollercoaster race which saw drivers and team overcome immense challenges.
The #8 TS030 HYBRID of Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Stéphane Sarrazin finished second while the #7 of Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre and Kazuki Nakajima completed a satisfying week for the team by taking fourth.
The race was marred by the death of Allan Simonsen, who succumbed to injuries sustained when his #95 Aston Martin suffered a heavy accident just a few minutes into the race. Toyota Racing mourns his passing and sends its sincerest condolences to his family, friends and team.
A chaotic race featured regularly-changing weather causing treacherous track conditions which contributed to 11 safety car periods and made driving extremely difficult for the drivers.
The #7 overcame a turbulent 24 hours which saw it face several challenges, including a loss of fuel pressure early in the race, a slow in-lap to conserve fuel and two precautionary tyre changes when sensors indicated slow punctures.
With just over an hour to go, the #7 was in a thrilling battle for third until a very heavy rain shower made track conditions virtually impossible. Nicolas could do little to prevent his TS030 HYBRID sliding off the track and into the barriers.
Nico bravely brought the car back to the pits and superb work from his crew repaired the heavy damage to the front bodywork and suspension within 30 minutes. That allowed him to take the flag in fourth place.
The #8 enjoyed a much smoother run despite the difficult circumstances, losing time only when its fuel stop window twice came during safety car periods which caused Stéphane to be held at the end of pit lane until he could rejoin.
A day of perfect reliability for the #8 saw it push for victory before eventually completing the 24 hours just a lap behind the winning Audi #2.
That second place equals Toyota’s best finish at Le Mans as the TS030 HYBRID matched the results of the TS010 (1992), 94C-V (1994) and TS020 (1999).
Yoshiaki Kinoshita, Team President: “Firstly, congratulations to Audi for their victory. It was great to compete with them in such an exciting race. I am very proud of our team today; we truly performed like a team and we earned this result. We never gave up or lost focus, even in difficult circumstances. To get both cars to the finish and to stand on the podium was a very satisfying result. I will always remember the determination and team work showed by everyone after the #7 was damaged. It was very emotional for me to see this because it showed our team spirit. So I would like to say thank you to the team and also the drivers, who gave everything for us. I am happy with this result but my dream is to win Le Mans so I am determined we will come back even stronger next year.”
TS030 HYBRID #7 (Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre, Kazuki Nakajima)
Driver order: Nicolas / Alex / Kazuki / Nicolas /Alex / Kazuki / Nicolas
Race: 4th, 341 laps (+ 7 laps), 30 pit stops. Fastest lap: 3min 25.718secs
Alex Wurz: “Congratulations to Audi #2, they won a very dramatic race which was overshadowed by the loss of one of our colleagues, which we are very sorry for. From our point of view we are very happy and proud that we brought one car on to the podium, so congratulations also to Anthony, Sébastien and Stéphane. We were always within a short distance to the leaders; it was a very strong showing. We shouldn’t forget that Audi has a very high level after dominating for the last decade so it was a very encouraging showing for us.”
Nicolas Lapierre: “I think it is a great day for Toyota Racing to get on the podium in the Le Mans 24 hours. We came quite close to the victory and we can be proud about this considering our team is only 18 months old. The fact that the two cars finished the race without any major technical trouble is a big achievement. Unfortunately on our car I made a mistake which took us out of the fight for a podium. We had to push to get a third place finish and it didn’t work out. We finished fourth which is a disappointment but when I brought the car back to the garage I was so proud of the mechanics. They did really a great job and I was emotional to go back on the track after this.”
Kazuki Nakajima: “It was an exciting battle with Audi #3 and that is something we didn’t expect from the qualifying results. Now I can’t wait to come back next year and challenge for the win. Thanks to all the team for the great job; it’s good for everyone that our team-mates went to the podium. It is a pity it wasn’t one step more. For our car it was good to finish the race even if the result was not ideal. As a team we worked very hard and we can be proud of how we reacted to the accident towards the end. After that it feels great to see the chequered flag but I have mixed feelings, especially after yesterday’s sad news.”
TS030 HYBRID #8 (Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi, Stéphane Sarrazin)
Driver order: Anthony / Sébastien / Stéphane / Anthony / Stéphane / Anthony / Sébastien
Race: 2nd, 347 laps (+ 1lap), 30 pit stops. Fastest lap: 3min 25.151secs
Anthony Davidson: “The conditions were really tough but the team and the car did not miss a beat. Everyone pulled together; Toyota Racing did a great job and I always said if we all do the job that I know we can do, we will get at least a podium. We didn’t have the ultimate speed from the car to win, that was clear from the moment we arrived here, but we didn’t give up, we kept pushing and we knew this was a race in which anything can happen. Unfortunately yesterday morning’s accident for Allen proved that so tragically. It was particularly poignant for me after what happened last year. It was amazing for me to bounce back and finally end up on the podium at Le Mans. I’ve always dreamed of this and it was a fantastic feeling.”
Sébastien Buemi: “It was a very challenging race for us, and everyone, with the conditions. We knew that at any time mistakes could happen but my team-mates drove a fantastic race and the team did such a good job. I am really happy because we worked very hard in our endurance testing and still we were not sure if we had done enough. Then to get here and have no problems at all, finishing the race in second place, it is a great, great job for the whole team. Obviously there’s a bit of frustration because we always want to win. But we improved a lot since last year and we showed that we are getting there; maybe Audi has to worry a little bit for next year!”
Stéphane Sarrazin: “It is an amazing result for the team and it’s very encouraging for the future. We pushed really hard since last year and the team put in a huge amount of effort; they gave their maximum all the time. The car was just amazing this weekend. We had no problems, no reliability issue. We did our best but Audi were just a bit quicker than us. Sébastien and Anthony did a great job in tricky conditions in which it was easy to make a mistake. We saw many crashes and unfortunately a very bad accident yesterday. Now we are just very happy about our race, our team, our mechanics and engineers. I am so happy to be part of this team; I am a lucky boy.”