Toyota Gazoo Racing Wins at Le Mans – Buemi, Nakajima and Alonso Capture the Crown

By Steve & Tamami Laser

The 87th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans saw Toyota Gazoo Racing score a dramatic one-two finish following its historic first victory last year.

Defending their title in the #8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima, and Fernando Alonso also captured the drivers’ World Championship. Teammates Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, and José María López came in second in the #7 car.

With 62 cars sharing the 13.626km circuit, anything can happen in the 24-hour race. Thus the cars, drivers, and team must work together to handle changing track conditions, fatigue and potential exhaustion, plus mechanical glitches.

During Le Mans week, teams complete close to 35 hours of driving, including a four-hour practice session on Wednesday along with two hours of qualifying. The next day, two more 120-minute qualifying sessions were held and the starting grid was set using the fastest lap from any of the qualifying sessions.

TS050 Hybrid delivers four-wheel-drive via motor-generators at the front and rear axles. The 1,000 hp cars are said to use about 35 percent less fuel than in 2012 when Toyota entered its first LMP1 hybrid car. Energy generated during braking is harvested by the motor-generators and converted into electrical energy, which is deployed under acceleration to save fuel and deliver performance.

During the 24-hour race, it looked like car #7 was headed to victory with a lead of more than two minutes in the 367th lap. The car also set the fastest-ever LeMans race lap of 3 minutes, 17.297 seconds. However, López was forced to pit following an alert for a tire puncture. Unfortunately, a sensor issue caused the wrong tire to be replaced, so he had to return to the pits following a slow lap for another tire change.

Kazuki took the lead in #8 and crossed the finish line in first place at 385 laps. TS050 #7 came in second at +16.972 sec. Rounding out the top six finishers was third-place SMP #11 with +6 laps, fourth place Rebellion #1 at +9 laps, fifth-place Rebellion #3 at +15 laps, and Signatech Alpine #36 at +17 laps.

Congratulations to the Toyota Gazoo Racing team!

News sources and photos courtesy of Toyota Gazoo Racing Co., and Toyota Motor Corp.

Story (commentary) © 2019