Oct 09, 2020
The TOYOTA GAZOO racing team cemented its dominance at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race by taking its third win in a row on 19-20 September. The #8 TS050 HYBRID of Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and KazukiNakajima finished five laps ahead of the nearest competitor after a full day and 5,272km of racing.
Buemi and Nakajima wrote themselves into the history books by becoming part of an elite group of drivers to have won at Le Mans three times, while Hartley has now won the race twice. Meanwhile, TOYOTA GAZOO – sponsored by DENSO – now has an unassailable lead in the manufacturers’ standings in the World Endurance Championship (WEC).
Familiar but different
This may have been the 88th time 24 Hours of Le Mans has taken place, but this outing was notably different from its predecessors. For only the second time in history, it took place in September instead of the usual June; and spectators were absent for the first time due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.
But once the French tricolore waved to start the race on Saturday 19 September, the changes were forgotten: the action was just as exhilarating and nail-biting as it always has been.
Both Toyotas took up a position in the front row, but it was the #7 car – piloted by Mike Conway, KamuiKobayashi and José María López – that led the race early on. As #8 pitted under the safety car in the seventh hour, car #7 managed to increase its lead to a whole lap.
Car #8 makes it three
But at the Circuit de la Sarthe, things are rarely straightforward for long – and so it proved just over 12 hours in, when the #7 had to pit to repair an exhaust manifold. It was repaired swiftly, but the car rejoined the race in fourth place.
What followed was a masterclass in race control from the #8 car, which maintained its lead unchallenged for the rest of the race’s duration. Kazuki Nakajima brought the car over the line on Sunday afternoon to complete a hat-trick of wins. For a car that had never won the race before, to win in 2018, 2019 and 2020 is a magnificent achievement.
While the #1 Rebellion took second place, there was a tight race for third, as the Toyota #7 battled to overtake Rebellion’s #3 car. It wasn’t decided until late, but eventually the #7 edged ahead into third, meaning Toyota would occupy two spots on the podium.
The final countdown
The WEC drivers’ championship has swung in favour of car #8. The Toyota TS050 HYBRID, powered by DENSO parts including the rear hybrid motor and spark plugs, holds a seven-point lead with one race to go. But enough points are in offer at the final stage in Bahrain that anyone could win it.
In the WEC manufacturers’ championship, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing is 57 points clear at the top, having won five of the seven races so far this season.
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