TOYOTA GAZOO Racing suffered an agonising night at the 85th Le Mans 24 Hours which saw two of its TS050 HYBRID cars retire from the race within 30 minutes of each other.
The race-leading #7 of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Stéphane Sarrazin suffered a clutch problem towards the end of the 10th hour. Kamui and the team tried valiantly to bring it back to the pits but he eventually had to park the car at the exit of the Porsche Curves and retire.
In a cruel further twist, just 15 minutes after that disappointment, the #9 TS050 HYBRID of Nicolas Lapierre, Yuji Kunimoto and José María López was hit by an LMP2 competitor approaching the first corner, causing damage to the rear left of the car.
Nicolas continued as far as possible but the car was unable to reach the pits and at 1.30am he stopped the car for good. The impact badly damaged the rear of the car and prevented it moving further.
Investigations are ongoing into the precise damage to both cars and will be concluded when the cars are returned after the race.
That leaves the #8 TS050 HYBRID of Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima as the sole TOYOTA in the race, although that is 29 laps behind after over an hour in the pits to replace the front motor and battery.
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing expresses its regret and sadness at the unacceptable turn of events in a race which started with high hopes of a first-ever victory at Le Mans.
Kamui Kobayashi: “It is so disappointing. The car was running very well and we were just taking things steady, building a gap at the front. Then after the safety car, I just had no power. I tried to come back to the pits but it wasn’t possible. I feel so sad for everyone in the team who has worked so hard for this race and produced such a quick car.”
Nicolas Lapierre: “I can’t believe it. The LMP2 car was directly behind me at the end of the start-finish straight and I had the normal fuel cut. I guess he was surprised; he hit me from behind and that was it. It’s so frustrating for all of us in the team.”