Toyota Wins at Le Mans and Commits to Future WEC Seasons
June 18, 2019
Following its dramatic 1-2 win in the iconic Le Mans 24-hour in France over the weekend for the second consecutive year, Toyota has confirmed it will continue to compete in the World Endurance Championship (WEC) beyond 2020 with a race car based on the road-going GR Super Sport currently under development.
The two-car Toyota GAZOO Racing team’s victory in the final race of the 2018/19 WEC Super Season at Le Mans came after it dominated the entire eight-race season.
The Toyota GAZOO Racing team won every round bar one, securing the manufacturer’s championship title after the penultimate round at Spa in Belgium last month.
Taking the chequered flag in the #8 TS050 Hybrid in this year’s Le Mans 24-hour, Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Fernando Alonso successfully defended their historic first win at Le Mans in 2018, winning the 2018/19 WEC driver’s championship in the process.
After 385 laps of the Circuit de la Sarthe, Buemi, Nakajima and Alonso finished just 16.9 seconds ahead of team-mates Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López in the #7 car.
The #7 car crew had controlled much of the race, including setting the fastest-ever Le Mans race lap of 3mins 17.297secs, but on the 367th lap, with a lead of over two minutes, data on the #7 car indicated a puncture and López pitted to replace the tyre.
A sensor issue resulted in the wrong tyre being identified and changed, leaving López with a still deflating tyre that necessitated a slow lap back to the pits when all four tyres were changed.
Nakajima, in the #8 car took the lead with less than an hour to go and held on to it through to the finish line.
Speaking after the win, Nakajima said it was a victory decided by luck and not by performance.
“It was a tough race and what happened to car #7 is hard to believe,” Nakajima said.
“Thanks to our win we are also World Champions and we are very proud of this after a long and hard season, which included many close fights with our sister car,” he said.
Fellow WEC world-champion Alonso agreed but said it was a great way to end his season with Toyota GAZOO Racing.
“It is amazing to win Le Mans for the second time but the win came really unexpectedly,” Alonso said.
“We did not have the pace to win this race against car #7 on track. Today luck was a big factor and this is part of motorsport.
“I feel for my team-mates who are actually more than team-mates, they are friends. They would have deserved the victory, but the race chose us to win it.
“Our main goal was to win the World Championship and we are very proud that we have achieved this,” he said.
Toyota GAZOO Racing now has its sights set on a repeat performance when the 2019/20 WEC season kicks off at Silverstone in the UK on September 1.
But it is also looking further ahead, confirming its entry into the 2020/21 season with a new car based on the road-going GR Super Sport, that was first shown as a concept at the 2018 Tokyo Auto Salon.
New WEC regulations for the 2020/21 WEC season will open up its top category beyond specialised prototypes to include race cars derived from road-going hypercars and Toyota has welcomed the move.
GAZOO Racing Company President Shigeki Tomoyama, said he was pleased to confirm that Toyota GAZOO Racing will continue its challenge in endurance racing beyond the current regulations and looked forward to a new era of exciting competition.
“Thank you to the ACO and FIA for their hard work in finalising these regulations, which we hope will bring about a new golden age of endurance racing, with several manufacturers fighting for Le Mans and the FIA World Endurance Championship,” Tomoyama said.
“For Toyota GAZOO Racing, this new era of competition is a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate our credentials not only as a race team against some of the best in the business, but also as a sports car manufacturer,” he said.
Toyota has a proud international motorsport history spanning more than 60 years. It became the first Japanese car manufacturer to enter international motorsport when it contested the 1957 Mobilgas Round Australia Rally, making Australia the birthplace of Toyota motorsport. Today, Toyota GAZOO Racing contests the FIA-sanctioned World Rally Championship, World Endurance Championship which features the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the gruelling Dakar rally. Closer to home, Toyota GAZOO Racing Australia supports the Toyota 86 Racing Series that seeks to develop the talent of tomorrow as Australia’s premier grassroots circuit-racing category. In rallying, Toyota also supports the two-car Toyota GAZOO Racing Australia rally team in the Australian Rally Championship.