Le Mans 24h: Toyota’s race destructs in dramatic fashion

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Le Mans 24h: Toyota’s race destructs in dramatic fashion
By:
Jun 17, 2017, 11:48 PM

Toyota’s bid to win the Le Mans 24 Hours appears over, with its long-time leading #7 and third-string #9 entries both suffering race-ending disasters.

Mike Conway, Toyota Gazoo Racing
Nicolas Lapierre, Toyota Gazoo Racing after retirement
Rob Leupen, Team Manager, Toyota Gazoo Racing, reacts to the #9 retirement with Hugues de Chaunac
Nicolas Lapierre, Toyota Gazoo Racing after retirement
#9 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050 Hybrid: Jose Maria Lopez, Yuji Kunimoto, Nicolas Lapierre
Toyota Gazoo Racing team members react to the #7 retirement
A Toyota Gazoo Racing team member reacts to the #7 retirement

The #7 Toyota had extended its lead to over a minute for the first time in the ninth hour over the second placed #1 Porsche. The #9 Toyota had fallen a lap behind the leaders.

But everything changed when the race restarted after a 10th-hour safety car, to clean the track at Indianapolis after a Ford GT had spun. Kamui Kobayashi failed to get up to racing speed in Toyota #7 due to a clutch problem.

He quickly lost the lead to the #1 Porsche and the #9 Toyota, as he toured around in first gear, and then stopped repeatedly – frantically scrolling through his steering wheel settings.

After numerous attempts to get back to the pits, he eventually pulled off for good at the Porsche Curves, taking the applause of a crowd appreciative of all his efforts.

Just as Toyota’s attention turned to the second-placed #9 car, it was hit by Simon Trummer's Manor Oreca LMP2 car as its fuel-cut came in. That sent the car across the gravel with a left-rear puncture at Dunlop Curve, and inflicted damage to its drivetrain.

As Nicolas Lapierre attempted to drag the car back to the pits, with the rear-left corner badly damaged, it briefly caught fire.

He was forced to stop to recycle the car’s systems at the Porsche Curves and, agonisingly, then limped to the pit entrance. And that was where #9 stayed, as it too ­– like the #7 – ran out of hybrid power to drag it back to the pits.

The #8 Toyota has returned to the race, but is 30 laps down after a front-end powertrain replacement.

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