TOYOTA GAZOO Racing made a clean start to the 83rd Le Mans 24 Hours, running in seventh and eighth as the third round of the World Endurance Championship approached its fourth hour.
The race began in perfect conditions, with bright sunshine and air temperatures of 20°C at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
Sébastien Buemi, who shares the #1 TS040 HYBRID with Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima, took the start from eighth and immediately overtook Alex Wurz in the #2.
After the opening hour, a pattern had emerged with both TS040 HYBRIDs making steady progress, although the leading Porsche and Audis were edging clear. The gap was significantly reduced when a three-car incident further down the field brought out the safety car at the one-hour mark.
Twelve minutes later, the racing resumed and the two TOYOTAs continued the fight, lapping consistently and cleanly dealing with the lapped cars.
After three stints on the slick Michelin tyres, and with a gap of half a lap to the leader, Sébastien handed the #1 over to Anthony in seventh place. Alex did likewise in the #2, with Stéphane taking the wheel in eighth.
TS040 HYBRID #1 (Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima)
Sébastien Buemi: “It’s always a special experience to take the start at Le Mans and I could fight a bit on the first lap. We did three stints on the tyres to start with. Obviously we were not able to match the pace of the Audis and Porsches but we expected that and there’s no panic for us. We are doing our best and we will see in the next few hours how the race takes shape.”
TS040 HYBRID #2 (Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway)
Alex Wurz: “It was not an easy stint for me. The car balance wasn’t perfect; it was lively on the rear so I was struggling to carry speed in the fast corners. On the out lap of my last stint, someone dropped a lot of oil which covered my windscreen so I could hardly see. I lost a lot of time in traffic. We decided to keep going until the end just to stay with our strategy, but it was frustrating. However, it’s only the first stage of a long race.”