Toyota Racing gets 3rd win in a row at 2020 Le Mans
The 24-hour Le Mans endurance race is usually an exciting annual affair for motorsports fans in Europe and the world. This season is a little different as the post-pandemic situation has limited spectators to go to the Circuit de la Sarthe. Not only the fans, but manufacturers participating in the Le Mans have dwindled over the past 3 years. The 2020 Le Mans is also the penultimate round of the WEC (World Endurance Championship).
Toyota Racing have been carrying the Le Mans title for the past couple of years. Going into the 2020 season, they’re looking for a third and without any real factory squads to challenge them, it’s almost assuredly theirs for the taking. This Le Mans would mark the final appearance for the 1,000PS, four-wheel-drive TS050 Hybrid.
The stage was set on Sunday as the two TS050 Hybrids lined up on the grid. Cars no.7 featured Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López, while car no.8 piloted by Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley. The Toyota drivers looked set for a perfect 1 – 2 finish, but an exhaust issue would cause car no.7 the win. But, they ended up third overall.
Led by the pole sitter car no.7, Toyota got off to a stirring start and built a one-lap lead by half distance. But shortly 3 hours after midnight, with Kobayashi at the wheel, the car suffered a drop in power which forced it into the pit. A damaged exhaust manifold was replaced in less than 30 minutes and the Japanese driver re-joined in fourth place, six laps off the lead and four laps behind the third-placed car no.3 Rebellion.
That left the second TS050 no.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 10-minute repair in the seventh hour. But they never gave up and fought back into second place before disaster struck car no.7.
With a healthy lead, car no.8 trio controlled the rest of the race from the front, establishing a five-lap lead. For the third consecutive year, Nakajima crossed the finish line to win the Le Mans 24 Hours, cementing his status as the most successful Japanese driver at the Le Mans’ La Sarthe.
Car no.7 trio initially made up ground on third place but the car sustained floor damage after hitting debris, which compromised aerodynamic performance. However, the podium battle came alive in the final hour when the no.3 Rebellion first crashed on track and then could not exit the pits, allowing José to earn third, taking the flag six laps behind the no.8 car and one lap adrift of the second-placed no.1 Rebellion.
For Buemi and Nakajima, this was their third consecutive Le Mans triumph and they join only seven previous drivers who have achieved that feat in the race’s 97-year history, while Hartley won for the second time following his victory in 2017.
After Le Mans, Toyota Racing have the advantage of 7 points in the drivers’ point standings. The WEC finale goes down to the wire in Bahrain on 14 November, with 39 points up for grabs.
Le Mans 24 Hours results:
1st #8 Toyota Racing 387 laps
2nd #1 Rebellion (Senna/Menezes/Nato) +5 laps
3rd #7 Toyota Racing +6 laps
4th #3 Rebellion (Dumas/Berthon/Deletraz) +6 laps
5th #22 United Autosports (Hanson/Albuquerque/di Resta) +17 laps