In a dramatic late twist Porsche won its 18th overall Le Mans 24 victory, on the last lap.
Toyota GAZOO Racing finished second in the 84th edition of Le Mans 24 Hours after both its TS050 Hybrids took turns to lead the race.
Poised to win with the #5 crew of Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima, on the penultimate lap, with Kazuki at the wheel, Toyota suffered a sudden loss of power. Despite best efforts to restore drive, the car struggled round the lap and stopped on the start-finish line handing victory to the Porsche #2 car and its drivers Romain Dumas (FR), Neel Jani (CH) and Marc Lieb (GER). While the Porsche 919 Hybrid finished in first place, Toyota eventually restarted #5 and completed the final lap, but too slowly to be classified.
Toyota’s #6 car - of Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi - a long-time leader of the race which suffered its own troubles late on, finished second, behind the winning #1 Porsche. Porsches’ other car of Timo Bernhard (GER), Brendon Hartley (NZ) and Mark Webber (AUS) finished 14th overall after a long stop for repairs in the night. No other brand has managed to win the world’s toughest endurance race so many times as Porsche.
Porsche driver Romain Dumas said: “For sure we feel sorry for Toyota. It was a great race. But of course if you get the chance to win Le Mans, you won’t say no thank you. It’s impossible to realise right now what just happened. This year, the lap times were a bit slower due to the regulation changes.” Neel Jani added: “I feel heartbroken for the Toyota drivers. I think every racing driver knows how this feels like. I still have no words to describe winning the 24 hours of Le Mans. This is really surreal. Still we drove a very good race with very few mistakes and pushed the car to the maximum. This win is really, really special.”
The race was one of the closest fights in Le Mans history, with three cars locked in an intense battle for the entire 24 hours. Prior to the late drama, the TS050 Hybrid had suffered few issues. The #5 car needed an additional pit stop early in the race due to severe tyre vibrations, while #6 lost 30 seconds to repair minor bodywork damage following contact with a lapped car.
After 20 hours of flat-out racing, the top three were covered by less than 30 seconds, but soon Toyota’s no. #6 car dropped out of the battle for second, spending nine minutes in the garage to repair bodywork, resuming in third.
There was no respite for the team in a nervous finale as the #5 held off its rival until, with the race seemingly heading Toyota's way, when suddenly the 260,000 stunned fans witnessed one of the most dramatic finales in the history of Le Mans.
Toyota has confirmed it will analyse the cause of the problem as part of its preparations for the 2017 Le Mans 24 Hours, while Porsche says one of the most ‘eligible trophies on the globe’ will remain on display at the brand's head quarters after arriving in France as title defenders.