Toyota Gazoo Racing has claimed their fourth consecutive win at the Le Mans 24 hours race, and for the first time with its #7 car.. The party was complete for the Japanese as their #8 car finished second, making it a perfect result for TGR.
This win differs from the first three as it's the very first year with the Hypercars, a new regulation set to increase lap times and reduce the cost of competing. The GR010 Hybrid thus enters the history books on its maiden Le Mans as the first every Hypercar to win the race. And, significantly, because this is the first win for the #7 crew, who have been beleaguered by misfortune in the past. Congratulations to Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López, this year’s big winners!
Toyota were the clear favourites going into this race, with both cars on the front row. The team were however unsure about the car's reliability, but eventually it proved impeccable for the #7 as its crew enjoyed a nearly problem free 24 hours of racing in front of the pack. The sister car soon fell back after Olivier Pla pushed the car into a spin by bumping into it in the first corner of the first lap of the race. Further problems with the fuel pump and the transmission left it out of contention for the win, still taking a comfortable second place finish.
Behind them, the Alpine A480-Gibson quickly established itself as the main contender for third place. André Negrão, Nicolas Lapierre and Matthieu Vaxiviere shadowed the Toyota, ready to move in if the race leaders ever slipped up. The French team had a few issues of its own, however, most notably an off-track excursion for Matthieu Vaxiviere at the first chicane on the Mulsanne Straight just before the midway mark. Ultimately, the French car held on to its position and stepped up third on the podium.
Contrary to the fairly thin field in the hypercar category, LMP2 saw 25 cars entered for Le Mans, including several strong and experienced teams. The race for the win in in this category turned out to be a matter of last-car-standing as leader after leader fell behind due to issues or on-track events.
The #38 Jota was spun by Anthony Davidson as soon as the rain arrived, letting United Autosports take over. However, the latter team would suffer immense blows before the night fell with Maldonado in the #32 losing control of his car at Dunlop and thereby also causing damage to the sister car #23. When the other #22 was then struck with gearbox problems.
Still before the night, Franco Franco Colapinto at the wheel of the #26 f G-Drive Racing collided Sofia Floersch in the #1. The events saw both cars of the Belgian Team WRT end up in front of the field, and maintaining that position throughout the remainder of the race.
It was only 5 minutes from the end when the leader, driven by Robert Kubica, Louis Delétraz and Yifei Ye suffered a throttle issue and halted out on track, losing victory to their team mates Robin Frijns, Ferdinand Habsburg and Charles Milesi. An impressive feat on the team's first Le Mans entry.
The Jota #28 Oreca 07-Gibson driven by Sean Gelael, Stoffel Vandoorne and Tom Blomqvist finished second, with the #65 car of Panis Racing (Canal/Stevens/Allen) rounding out the podium.More to follow...