With Fernando Alonso, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima behind the wheel, Toyota secured its maiden win in the history of the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2018. The Toyota Gazoo Racing team's second car came home in second place, making the Toyota-domination perfect.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the world's oldest active event in endurance racing. The 2018 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans took place on 16 and 17 June at the Circuit de la Sarthe, Le Mans, France and was the 86th edition of the illustrious history of the legendary race. The race was the second event of the 2018/2019 superseason of the FIA World Endurance Championship which will end its chapter on the same venue in 2019.
After Porsche pulled out of the sport, Toyota remained the sole factory-backed LMP1 entrant. With staying in the frame, the Japanese manufacturer saved the 2018 race even if they were expected to dominate the event. Formula One douple champion, Fernando Alonso's appearance in the race with Toyota was believed to spice up the action, enticing an even bigger fanbase.
Following qualifications, the number eight Toyota of Fernando Alonso, Kazuki Nakajima, and Sébastien Buemi started and won the race from pole position alongside their teammates. IDEC Sport's Oreca was the lead car on the grid for the LMP2 category. Porsche was the fastest in both the LMGTE Pro and LMGTE Am classes, with Richard Lietz, Gianmaria Bruni, and Frédéric Makowiecki in the factory Porsche in Pro, and the Dempsey-Proton team representing the pole position in Am.
Toyota's triumph comes at the 20th attempt for the manufacturer, who become the second Japanese company to have won the world's most famous endurance race - following in the footsteps of Mazda in 1991.LMP1
The LMP1 category saw the Toyota Gazoo Racing scoring a double victory. The Japanese team's car number 8 was driven by the trio of Fernando Alonso, Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi was followed by its second car featuring the driver trio of Mike Convay, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez. The winning car completed 388 laps which was two more than the number of completed laps of Toyota's second car. Rebellion Racing's car number three went on to secure the third category and overall spot with Gustavo Menezes, Mathias Beche and Thomas Laurent behind the wheel.
Lacking reliability issues, the fight in LMP1 was always going to be among the Toyota cars, and it was. Both cars were very close in the opening stages of the race, with the cars exchanging the lead of the race until the #7 car managed to pull away in the evening. The #8 was a bit unlucky with slow zones, and then received a 60s stop and go penalty for speeding. However, as temperatures tumbled during the night, Alonso began to eat a chunk of time out of the #7's advantage, reportedly thanks to being more aggressive on the tyres, which obviously helps getting them to work in cold temperatures. Buemi on his behalf further extended that lead when the sun rose, despite repeatedly complaining of various balance issues with the car.
As is so often the case at Le Mans, the night proved another decisive time, with the #8 eventually finished two laps ahead of Toyota #7. Behind them, the privateers hit various trouble, with both SMP Racing LMP1 entries soon out of contention. Their #11 encountered issues that would drop it 50 laps for repairs, while the #17 crashed off. The subsequent attempt to get the back back to the pits resulted in a catastrophic engine failure, halting the car with sparks coming out of the engine and white smoke out of the airbox.
The ByKolles entry dropped out of contention before the night fell, as Kraaihamer violently crashed the car. The events handed 3rd and 4th to Rebellion, though they too encountered issues as various moments in the race.LMP2
G-Drive Racing's driver line-up of Roman Rusinov, Jean-Eric Vergné and Andrea Pizzitola earned the category victory in the LMP2 class, covering 369 laps in the race. Signatech Alpine Matmut ended the category on the second place with Nicolas Lapierre, André Negrao and Pierre Thiriet completing a total of 369 laps. Vincent Capillaire, Jonathan Hirschi and Tristan Gommendy grabbed the last spot on the LMP2 rostrum.LMPGTE Pro Class
Porsche dominated the LMPGTE Pro Class. Porsche GT Team's car number 92 won the 24-hour-long race with Kevin Estre, Laurens Vanthoor and Michael Christensen. The squad's second car Richard Lietz, Gianmaria Bruni and Frederic Makowiecki completed the one-two for the team. Joey Hand, Dirk Müller and Sébastien Bourdais ended the category as third.LMPGTE AM Class
The Dempsey-Proton Racing team with Matt Campbell, Christian Ried and Julien Andlauer scored the LMPGTE AM Class victory, securing Porsche another class victory. Ferrari cars conquered the two lower steps of the rostrum. Spirit of Race team was the second most successful squad in the category with Thomas Flöhr, Francesco Castellacci and Giancarlo Fisichella. Keating Motorsports' Ferrari was driven to third place by Jeroen Bleekemolen, Ben, Keating and Luca Stolz.
Full results at https://www.lemans.org/en/page/results/101
The FIA World Endurance Championship will now take on its well-deserved holiday before racing action returns in Silverstone on the 19th of August.