Toyota Gazoo Racing takes Le Mans hat-trick

Toyota Gazoo Racing earned its third consecutive Le Mans 24 Hours win with the TS050 Hybrid after a turbulent yet ultimately successful race. Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley completed over 3,100 miles at the Circuit de la Sarthe and won by five laps in the #8 TS050 Hybrid. Sébastien and Kazuki now join a list of only seven other drivers who have also won three consecutive races in the 97-year history of the event.

The pole position #7 TS050 Hybrid of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López had looked on course to win at La Sarthe until an exhaust problem, although the crew fought back to earn third place in the dramatic final 70 minutes.

This victory in the penultimate round of the season’s FIA World Endurance Championship, means Toyota Gazoo Racing is crowned Teams’ World Champions, holding an unassailable 57-point lead over Rebellion Racing.

The race also marked the final appearance at Le Mans for the TS050 Hybrid, which has set new standards of efficiency and performance at La Sarthe. Though using 35% less fuel than the first generation of LMP1 hybrids from 2012, the TS050 Hybrid laps around ten seconds faster. Alongside its four consecutive pole positions and three victories, the TS050 Hybrid holds the fastest ever lap and the race lap record.

Those achievements inspired the new GR Super Sport hypercar (below), so it was fitting that it made its public track debut moments before the race start. A customised development version completed a demonstration lap before returning the winners’ trophy just before the start.

Aside from ten laps around the six hour mark, #7 held the advantage at the front of the field, building a one lap lead by half distance. But shortly before 3:00am it suffered reduced power, forcing it into the garage. A damaged exhaust manifold was replaced in less than half an hour and Kamui re-joined in fourth place, six laps off the lead and four laps behind the third-placed #3 Rebellion.

That left the #8 in a clear lead, having recovered from its own troubles, first with a puncture, then a debris-damaged brake duct which cost time at two pit stops before a ten minute repair in the seventh hour. But they never gave up and fought back into second place before the issue for #7.

Now with a healthy lead, Sébastien, Kazuki and Brendon controlled the rest of the race from the front, establishing a five-lap lead. For the third consecutive year, Kazuki crossed the finishing line to win the Le Mans 24 Hours, cementing his status as the event’s most successful Japanese driver.

Mike, Kamui and José initially made up ground on third place but the #7 sustained floor damage after hitting debris, which compromised aerodynamic performance. However, the podium battle came alive in the final hour when the #3 Rebellion crashed on track and could not exit the pits, allowing José to earn third, taking the flag six laps behind the #8 car and one lap adrift of the second-placed #1 Rebellion.

A significant point swing in favour of the #8 crew means the race for the drivers’ World Championship title therefore goes down to the last race of the 2019-2020 season, on 14 November in Bahrain. The #8 car holds a seven-point lead with a maximum of 39 available in Bahrain.

Le Mans 24 Hours results

POSITION  CAR / TEAM  LAPS 
1  #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing  387 
2  #1 Rebellion  +5 
3  #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing  +6 
4  #3 Rebellion  +6 
5  #22 United Autosports  +17 
6  #38 JOTA  +17 

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