The 87th Le Mans 24-Hour was an unforgettable experience for Toyota Racing with a second Le Mans title in consecutive years, a repeat from last season. Not only did Toyota win the 2019 Le Mans, but they got a one-two finish after Sunday’s endurance race around the clock at the Circuit de la Sarthe. With the Le Mans win, Toyota won the WEC (World Endurance Championship) 2018-19 overall title as well..
Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Fernando Alonso in the no.8 TS050 Hybrid defended their Le Mans crown and secured the drivers’ title. They inherited the win which could have gone team mates’ (Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López) way in sister car no.7. The TS050 Hybrid no.7 was on the verge of victory, but a tyre puncture prompted a last minute swap and virtually handed victory to car no.8.
On the 367th lap, with a lead of over two minutes, data on no.7 car indicated a puncture and Lopez had to pit to replace the tyre. A sensor issue resulted in the wrong tyre being identified, meaning Lopez left the pits still with a deflating tyre. That necessitated a slow lap back to the pits when four tyres were changed, handing an unassailable lead to Nakajima in car no.8.
Car no.7 drivers had controlled much of the contest, having set the fastest-ever Le Mans race lap of 3:17.297. Other motorsport records were rewritten too; Nakajima became the first circuit-racing champion from Japan and Alonso is the second driver to win four-wheel world titles in two different disciplines (F1 and Le Mans).
2019 Le Mans 24-Hour: Unlucky end for TS050 car no.7
Car no.7 had started the race from pole following Kobayashi’s fastest qualifying lap, with car no.8 starting just behind. That set the scene for an exciting and close battle for overall victory between the two 1,000PS TS050 Hybrids, with momentum swinging one way and then the other. Without the likes of Porsche and Audi, there weren’t any real challenges for the factory Toyota squad. After 12 hours the two Toyotas were separated by only 8.6secs. In the night, car no.7 seized a decisive advantage as the sister car faced an aerodynamic imbalance. That was caused by bodywork damage due to the rigours of a tough, flat-out contest although the cars were always on the same lap.
As the final hours approached, the gap remained relatively stable around two minutes and the focus switched to bringing the cars home safely. All appeared to be going to plan until car no.7 experienced its dramas and Nakajima took the lead with less than an hour to go. From there, it was smooth sail for the Japanese and more importantly a 1-2 finish. The closest challenger was six laps behind the two Toyotas.
2019 Le Mans 24-hour LMP1 results
1st #8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing 385 laps
2th #7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +16.972secs
3rd #11 SMP (Petrov/Aleshin/Vandoorne) +6 laps
4th #1 Rebellion (Jani/Lotterer/Senna) +9 laps
5th #3 Rebellion (Laurent/Berthon/Menezes) +15 laps