Toyota pledges not to give up on elusive Le Mans win
Toyota has pledged that it will not give up on winning the Le Mans 24 Hours, despite suffering fresh disappointment in last weekend’s 85th running.
Following on from its last-lap heartbreak in 2016, Toyota saw all three of its TS050 Hybrids suffer problems, with only the #8 entry of Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima making the finish – albeit nine laps down and in ninth overall.
Porsche secured its third successive Le Mans victory with the #2 trio of Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard and Earl Bamber in a race of attrition that saw only two LMP1 cars go the distance, and none without significant mechanical trouble.
"We had a good car on the speed front, we thought we had a good car for the race and we did not see problems coming here, but there is always something that can happen," team director Rob Leupen told Motorsport.com.
"This year we came with three cars and we knew what we had to do despite being four minutes away [from winning] last season, it still gave us confidence knowing what we needed to achieve."
The #7 TS050 Hybrid, which started on pole after Kamui Kobayashi's record-breaking qualifying lap, stopped on track with a clutch issue in the 10th hour while holding a comfortable lead.
By this stage, the #8 car had already been ruled out of winning contention by a two-hour spell in the pits, which was required to change the car's front motor and battery.
"Both failures we saw took us by surprise and there are no answers," said Leupen.
"We had not seen this [clutch] issue before. Normally there is always something we see at the tests and we talk to the drivers about to adapt or improve.
"The front motor [that failed on the #8 car] also has a long life of 15,000km minimum, so we were not overly concerned about any of these things pre-race. It was a bad surprise for us."
Toyota's third entry for Le Mans, the #9, was eliminated just 15 minutes after the demise of the #7 car when it was hit by the #25 Manor LMP2 car of Simon Trummer.
"This can happen anywhere and to anyone at any time," Leupen said of the incident that effectively extinguished Toyota's hopes of victory. "This is why we pulled for a third car.
"But you saw how quick the LMP2 cars were with their acceleration here and it was a new experience."
Leupen however pledged that Toyota would return to La Sarthe for another attempt at claiming the prize that has eluded it, and underlined the team's focus on securing the WEC title.
"I think what we can say is that we have proven to be racers," he continued. "We came back after a hard experience last year and we will come back next year.
"We have a race to win and we have made big strides over the last two years, especially on high-downforce tracks. We still have a world championship to fight for, so let's fight for it."
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