An impressive start to the team’s first race saw the TS030 HYBRIDs fighting at the front, reaching a pinnacle when Nicolas Lapierre, sharing the #7 with Alex Wurz and Kazuki Nakajima, took the lead as the six-hour mark approached.
However, the team’s joy at seeing its super capacitor-based hybrid powertrain lead the field was ended only seconds later due to a heavy accident for Anthony Davidson in the #8 he drove alongside Stéphane Sarrazin and Sébastien Buemi.
He was hit by a lapped car and suffered heavy impact with the tyre barriers at Mulsanne Corner, which comes at the end of the Mulsanne Straight when cars reach a top speed of more than 330km/h.
After getting out of the car on his own, he was taken to the circuit medical centre suffering from shock and back pain. Despite no obvious injuries, he was taken to hospital for checks which revealed breaks to his T11 and T12 vertebrae.
Those injuries are expected to heal fully in approximately three months and he will remain in hospital until Monday.
A safety car period followed that incident and, when the green flags waved, Kazuki fought for the lead. However he was also unlucky with lapped traffic and made contact with another car, causing a puncture and rear bodywork damage.
That began a challenging period for the team, with several problems losing the #7 significant time in the pits as the crew worked hard to achieve the target of taking the chequered flag.
However, an engine failure after 10-and-a-half hours forced the difficult decision to retire the #7 and end TOYOTA Racing’s first race prematurely.
Having proven the performance of its TS030 HYBRID chassis and TOYOTA HYBRID System – Racing in one of motorsport’s toughest races, the team will return to action with confidence at the WEC Six Hours of Silverstone on 26 August.
Yoshiaki Kinoshita, Team President: “Right now our emotion is one of sadness. Our best wishes are with Anthony, who is a fantastic colleague and a positive force in our team. We strongly hope he recovers very soon and we’re sorry we could not provide a result to cheer him up from the #7 car, which suffered firstly an alternator problem and then an engine failure. After all the hard work to get to this point, it really hurts to see both cars retire early. But in the next days we will look back on the first six hours of the race and feel great pride that we could lead Le Mans in our very first race. That is a remarkable achievement with such pioneering technology and this motivates us to push harder than ever to bring home some trophies in the remainder of the season.”