After 20 years of disappointment, Toyota Gazoo Racing (TGR) finally breaks its curse to win the Le Mans 24-hour endurance race. The #8 TS050 HYBRID race car took 388 laps before it could cross the finish line, making them the second Japanese manufacturer to win the prestigious motorsport event, next to Mazda who won in 1991.
Piloted by Formula 1 (F1) double world champion Fernando Alonso, Formula E champion Sebastian Buemi, and ex-F1 driver Kazuki Nakajima, the #8 TS050 HYBRID was evenly matched with its sister car early in the race. With only seconds separating the two, the #8 car and the #7 TS050 HYBRID driven by ex-F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi and Formula E’s Mike Conway and José María López traded places throughout the first few hours of the endurance race.
In the tenth hour of the race, Buemi was hit with a stop-and-go penalty for speeding during a slow zone (similar to F1’s virtual safety car). Buemi served the penalty on the 155th lap. TGR’s pit crew can only look onto the machine as the infraction barred them from performing any kind of service on it.
To make matters worse, the #7 car inherited the lead and built a two minutes and ten seconds gap over the penalty-stricken car. But as Alonso took over driver duties during the night, the Spaniard managed to slash into the lead and reduced it to just one minute and 14 seconds.
What was left of the gap vanished when a late fuel issue saw the #7 car–then driven by Kobayashi–lose its pace and relinquish its lead to the #8 car driven by Nakajima. Both cars managed to get together on the closing stages of the race, albeit, with a two lap gap to cross the finish line in formation.
The win by the #8 LMP1 machine doesn’t just break the losing streak of Toyota, it also brings Alonso closer to the exclusive and elusive triple crown title with only the Indianapolis 500 left for him to take.