Toyota "running out of words" to console unlucky #7 Le Mans crew
Toyota’s LMP1 team says it is “running out of words” to console its #7 crew after another near-miss at the 2020 Le Mans 24 Hours.
For the second year in a row the #7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid of Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez proved to be the quicker of the two Toyotas in the race, only to stumble over mechanical problems.
The #7 car was comfortably leading the race during the night when it suffered from a problem with the exhaust manifold. Toyota was forced to change the entire right-hand side turbo and exhaust assembly, which cost the #7 crew 30 minutes.
Kobayashi, Conway and Lopez dropped to fourth and only salvaged a podium after a late issue for the #3 Rebellion entry.
While Toyota celebrated a hat-trick of wins at Le Mans with the outgoing TS050 LMP1 hybrid in the hands of Kazuki Nakajima, Sebastien Buemi and Brendon Hartley, the team was also heartbroken for its unlucky trio.
“I’m definitely running out of words to talk to the drivers of car #7,” Toyota’s technical director Pascal Vasselon said after the race. “Car #7 was clearly a bit faster than car #8. Two times in a row they would deserve to win and something happened that was beyond their control, so I feel very sorry for the #7 drivers.
"They do everything right, they prepare well, they are fast and every time something goes wrong that is not in their hands. The entire team feels sorry for them."
Toyota’s team principal Rob Leupen revealed the #7 car’s exhaust problem hit the drivers hard at the time.
“It was hard to take at that moment, because they were more dominant than last year, they were over a lap clear and were doing really well,” Leupen told Motorsport.com. “You try to console them, but they don’t really want that at that moment. It was difficult, they all have a different way of dealing with it.
“They were stronger all week, but somehow the #8 car seems to have a little bit more luck at Le Mans. I can’t explain it."
Vasselon assessed that the exhaust problem that cost the #7 car seven laps was caused by a build quality issue and also explained the other gremlins for both cars.
“We had an exhaust failure quite early in the race so it’s clearly a quality issue on the right hand side exhaust,” he said. “Apart from that we had a lot of racing things. We had a puncture on car #8.
"Then with car #8 we had a strange problem, debris which blocked the brake duct. Then the debris caught fire and burnt the inside of the brake duct. We had to change to brake duct itself, we did not change the brakes."
Vasselon also explained the floor issue that prevented the dejected #7 crew from making much progress in the final third of the race.
He said: “In Mike’s last stint, the car in front lost a carbon part which went below ours and damaged the floor. We tried to repair it but clearly it would have been a very long repair, so we decided to keep running and car #7 lost performance in the last third of the race."
Despite the mixed emotions Leupen was happy with the TS050’s final Le Mans appearance, ahead of a switch to the all-new Hypercars in 2021.
“It didn’t always go the way we planned, but it was a good race,” the Dutchman added. "It’s a shame there were no fans and no large entourage, which makes Le Mans special.
“But it was a great era with high tech cars, a lot of emotions and nice races. First with Audi and Porsche, and then with Rebellion as well.
“Next year will be very exciting and different with the new Hypercars."
Senna: P2 for Rebellion an "incredible achievement"
Hanson thought United had "thrown away" LMP2 win