Toyota driver Kamui Kobayashi has expressed his bitter disappointment at not winning the Le Mans 24 Hours despite having the most competitive package throughout this year’s endurance classic.
The former Sauber and Caterham Formula 1 driver told Motorsport.com that he believes Toyota would have taken its elusive first La Sarthe win had it been able to get the stricken #7 TS050 Hybrid back to the pits when it suffered a clutch problem in the 10th hour while leading comfortably.
“It is very hard at the moment because we had such amazing pace through the whole of the week,” said Kobayashi. “We were so competitive but we had a clutch problem and we couldn’t come back.
“I think if we could have come back [to the pits] we [could] change the clutch and should have won. We saw the #2 Porsche stay in the garage for two hours so we could still be ahead of them.
“So it’s a shame we could not come back home and then get back in the race.”
Kobayashi set the fastest time in both the test day and in qualifying, setting a new lap record around the current configuration of the Circuit de la Sarthe, before completing a first triple stint.
With a healthy lead over the #1 Porsche, Kobayashi crawled to a standstill as he crossed the start/finish line at the end of his first full lap in his second appearance at the wheel in the race.
“There was no indication we had of the problem and we did not experience anything like this before so it is hard to think too much now,” said Kobayashi.
“There was nothing much I could do. I try everything but there was no movement in the car.”
Kobayashi was the clear driving benchmark in terms of pace at this year’s Le Mans, and said that he felt confident in the significant evolution of the TS050 Hybrid for 2017.
“I felt so good in the car and felt comfortable so I was ready to win Le Mans this time but unfortunately we didn’t manage it,” he said. “We should have done it, so it hurts even more now.
“I just had more experience with this car this year. Last year it was different for me but this week was nice, a good feeling. I am confident with this car and how to get the best.
“We will be back next year and we will have the opportunity again. For Toyota it is hard but we will come back very strongly and we have to win this race.”