TOYOTA GAZOO Racing stormed to victory in the 90th Le Mans 24 Hours to extend its winning run to five at the legendary Circuit de la Sarthe.
Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa drove a brilliant race in their #8 GR010 HYBRID, completing 380 laps to take the chequered flag in front of a passionate crowd.
The team’s fourth one-two finish at Le Mans was secured by last year’s winners, Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López, in their #7 GR010 HYBRID, which crossed the line just 2mins 1.222secs behind in second.
Sébastien’s fourth win sets a new victory record for Swiss drivers while Brendon’s third triumph makes him New Zealand’s most successful Le Mans driver. A first win for Ryo, in his third Le Mans and his first with TOYOTA GAZOO Racing, makes him the fifth Japanese driver to stand in the centre of the podium.
The two GR010 HYBRID Hypercars were the class of the field and engaged in a close battle at the front, with the lead changing hands several times as the race ebbed and flowed, with traffic, slow zones and track evolution all coming into play.
Kamui Kobayashi (Driver, car #7): “Congratulations to Sébastien, Brendon, Ryo and the car #8 crew. Unfortunately for car #7, we had a problem in the early morning and that cost us the race lead. We were fighting with car #8 for a long time, and we were so close. We did a really good race apart from that, so it’s really a pity that it happened. That’s how it goes in a 24-hour race sometimes. It’s a credit to TOYOTA GAZOO Racing that we came back on track and finished on the same lap. Thanks to Mike and José, and the whole car crew, for the big effort this week. I appreciate the effort from everyone in the team; we came to Le Mans with the target of a one-two finish and we achieved that.”
Mike Conway (Driver, car #7): “I don’t think this place likes us very much; there is always something. I know we won last year but we’ve had some tough times here. Congratulations to our team-mate in car #8, particularly Ryo. To win it on your first attempt is something else. It’s always a pleasure to work with Kamui and José and we gave our all for the Le Mans victory but unfortunately we came up short. But it’s a great one-two for the team and the fifth win in a row for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing, which is something to be proud of. I’d like to say a big thanks to all the team, at Higashi-Fuji and Cologne. There is still a World Championship to fight for and we have three races to go, so that’s on my mind right now and we will keep pushing.”
José María López (Driver, car #7): “It hurts to miss the Le Mans win. We are all competitive people and we want to win, but we also have to know how to take defeat and be happy for the team, particularly with this one-two result for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing. Congratulations to car #8; they did a great job. We did an almost perfect race and this explains the big gap to our Hypercar competitors, who all had some trouble. We managed everything to perfection. We showed we had the speed in the car and the will to win so to face an issue is tough. But thanks to the team for getting the car going again and allowing us to keep fighting. It’s good to be part of a one-two for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing at Le Mans.”
Sébastien Buemi (Driver, car #8): “It’s hard for me to express myself after that race because it’s just an amazing feeling, especially to be in the centre of the podium with Ryo and Brendon. It is fantastic that we were able to win together with Ryo in his first Le Mans as part of the #8 car. He has done such a great job and I’d like to congratulate him for his performance. The whole team, and our crew, executed a perfect race without any mistakes and no damage to the car. It’s an incredible feeling to win Le Mans for the fourth time, and the fifth time for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing. It will take a little bit of time before it sinks in because it’s hard to realise what we achieved today.”
Brendon Hartley (Driver, car #8): “It’s a great achievement to get a one-two at Le Mans for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing. It was a great feeling to be behind the wheel for qualifying and to get pole position, and it was even more special to take the race finish. It’s the first time I’ve been able to do that and I was overwhelmed with emotions when I crossed the line. During the whole race you are trying not to think about the finish because we have seen what can happen in the last laps, particularly with TOYOTA. So when you cross the line, all the emotions come out and it’s a great feeling. I am so happy for Ryo, who has integrated really well. We love him and he is a strong part of the team already. We also have a great relationship with the car #7 crew and it was fun to battle so hard with them for most of the race. We were flat-out for so long but after car #7 had their problem we backed off and took minimal risk.”
Ryo Hirakawa (Driver, car #8): “It’s an honour to join the list of legends who have won Le Mans. To be honest, I still cannot believe my dream has come true today. It was such a close race for so long and we had such a great fight with car #7. Thank you to Sébastien and Brendon who have helped me a lot since I joined the team; it is an honour to drive in the same car as them. It is fantastic to have a one-two in my first Le Mans for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing and this is thanks to the hard work of the whole team. We had a perfect strategy, great pit stops and a race without any problems; I don’t think we could do more.”
That contest continued for 16 hours, with the two cars running just a few seconds apart for most of that time. But the complexion of the race changed decisively on lap 256 when José pulled the race-leading #7 car to the side of the track following an issue relating to the front motor.
José performed a system reset and was able to return to the pits, where further resets solved the issue and allowed the #7 to continue at normal racing speed, albeit nearly a lap behind the new leader, Brendon in the #8 GR010 HYBRID.
With closely-matched performance, that deficit proved too great for the #7 crew to overcome, despite José setting the fastest lap of the race within the last half hour.
Brendon, following his spectacular last-minute Hyperpole on Thursday, had the honour of taking the chequered flag to win the 90th Le Mans 24 Hours. José followed soon after to complete a gruelling 5,177km of racing.
That result earned double points towards the 2022 FIA World Endurance Championship, which puts TOYOTA GAZOO Racing on top of the manufacturers’ standings after three races, 22 points ahead of Alpine. The drivers’ championship is wide open, with the #8 crew just three points of the leading Alpine trio, and #7 20 behind.
The focus will return to the fight for World Championship honours in just four weeks at the 6 Hours of Monza on 10 July.