Monday, April 15, 2024

Toyota Gazoo Racing Narrowly Miss Victory at Thrilling Le Mans Centenary Race

In a thrilling display of endurance racing, Toyota Gazoo Racing came within moments of capturing victory at the centenary edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The team’s #8 GR010 HYBRID, driven by Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley, and Ryo Hirakawa, delivered a stunning performance, finishing just 1:21.793 behind the triumphant #51 Ferrari after an intense battle that captivated a sell-out crowd of 325,000 spectators.

Despite encountering challenging competition from a record 16-car Hypercar field, featuring Cadillac, Ferrari, Peugeot, and Porsche; Toyota Gazoo Racing showcased their expertise and determination throughout the race in a bid to secure a historic sixth win in a row.

Team Principal Kamui Kobayashi‘s #7 GR010 HYBRID experienced misfortune during the event. While Kobayashi was at the wheel, an accident occurred after eight hours, resulting in significant damage to the car. A lapped car collided with the #7, forcing an early retirement from the race.

Reflecting on the race, Kamui Kobayashi expressed his disappointment while commending the team’s efforts, stating, “Unfortunately, the centenary Le Mans was not our race… We really fought hard to win, and everyone enjoyed working together to try to get the victory. We need to come back stronger; that’s how we deal with disappointments.”

Mike Conway, driver of the #7 GR010 HYBRID, praised the team’s performance despite the unfortunate outcome, saying, “Unfortunately, it was a short race for our car. We were hanging in there in the difficult conditions, we didn’t make any mistakes and stayed in the fight. Maybe we were not the quickest, but we were doing our job. It’s a pity we got taken out in those circumstances but there were so many incidents in those slow zones.”

José María López, also from the #7 car, looked back on the race and emphasized the importance of perseverance, stating, “Again, Le Mans teaches us that we need to be there until the end because you never know what can happen. I am looking forward to coming back.”

Credit: Toyota GAZOO Racing

The #8 GR010 HYBRID, however, persevered and fought relentlessly for victory. After an intense battle with the #51 Ferrari, the Toyota team found themselves in the lead during the early morning hours, only to drop to second place temporarily for repairs on a damaged front splitter and right rear tire puncture.

The duel between the leading #8 and the #51 Ferrari continued unabated, with a mere three seconds separating the two teams after 20 hours of racing. The Toyota drivers pushed their limits, with Ryo Hirakawa taking over the wheel in the final hours, aiming to close the gap to the leader. However, a momentary loss of control at Arnage resulted in damage to the #8’s front and rear bodywork. Despite the setback, the team managed to retain second place, securing valuable points for the World Championship.

Sébastien Buemi, driver of the second-place #8 car, acknowledged the team’s efforts and congratulated Ferrari on their victory, saying, “It was a tough race… We tried everything to win, so we have no regrets… Now we will look towards the World Championship and work hard to come back stronger in the next races.”

Brendon Hartley, Buemi’s teammate, expressed mixed emotions about the close finish, remarking, “For a moment it was getting exciting at the end when the conditions came back to us a bit and we started to close the gap… Right now, it feels like we came so close but were so far away… Big congratulations to Ferrari.”

Ryo Hirakawa, who faced the challenging task of closing the gap in the final hours, vowed to learn from the experience and return stronger for the remaining races, stating, “We need to analyze this race and find areas to improve… Personally, I will learn from my mistake and come back stronger… There are three races remaining in the season, so we will focus on the World Championship.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing’s valiant effort at the Le Mans Centenary race showcased their resilience and unwavering commitment to the World Championship. Although the victory slipped through their grasp, the team remains determined to build on their performance and continue their quest for championship glory.

With the manufacturers’ World Championship advantage reduced to 18 points over Ferrari, the Toyota team heads to the upcoming 6 Hours of Monza, determined to secure wins and extend their lead in the series. The race is scheduled to take place in four weeks, on 9 July.