Toyota’s persistence, patience and perseverance has paid dividends with Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Fernando Alonso in their TS050 Hybrid winning the Le Mans 24 Hours race after 388 tense and often dramatic laps at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López, who led for long periods in the other TS050 Hybrid, made it a perfect result for Toyota with second place in front of 256,900 fans.
“This is definitely the biggest win of my career,” said Buemi. “I struggle to realise it right now because in the last few laps I couldn't forget 2016 when we led until the last lap.”
Toyota had entered 47 cars at Le Mans prior to this weekend's race and finished on the podium six times, including runner-up five times. It has become only the second Japanese manufacturer to win the race, held this year for the 86th time.
The two TS050 HYBRIDs were evenly matched throughout the 5,286km and swapped places several times during a race which featured its share of drama for the leaders.
The difference between the two cars came down to an impressive overnight stint from double Formula One World Champion, Alonso, who re took the lead from its sister car.
“It has been amazing. We know how important and iconic Le Mans is in the world of motorsport and as a team we achieved an amazing result,” said Alonso.
“Every moment was a reminder of how tough and long this race is, anything can happen so we tried to execute our race and stay calm. Happily everything worked well. The race was hard because the two cars were very close, within one minute after 23 hours.”
The result is a culmination of intense and determined efforts by Toyota Gazoo Racing colleagues from Higashi-Fuji and Cologne to continually enhance its hybrid-electric technology, which won this weekend's race using 35% less fuel than in 2012, when it returned to endurance racing.
“I am so proud of everyone in the team for this result. It has been our dream to win Le Mans and finally we have achieved it,” said Hisatake Murata, the Team President. “Thank you so much to everyone for their incredible hard work and never-give-up attitude. To win Le Mans for Toyota after so many frustrations and disappointments is a truly magical moment.”
Le Mans 24 Hours result:
1, Toyota TS050 Hybrid (Buemi, Nakajima, Alonso) 388 laps;
2, Toyota TS050 Hybrid (Davidson, Lopez, Kobayashi) +2 laps;
3, Rebellion Racing (Laurent/Beche/Menezes) +12 laps;
4, Rebellion Racing (Lotterer/Jani/Senna) +13 laps;
5, G-Drive Racing (Rusinov/Vergne/Pizzitola) +19 laps;
6, Signatech Alpine (Lapierre/Negrão/Thiriet) +21 laps.