Toyota drivers Kazuki Nakajima, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Buemi claimed their second consecutive 24 Hours of Le Mans victory Sunday, but only after some bad luck scuttled their sister car's hopes of a win.
Entering the closing stages Spaniard Alonso's auto with Nakajima driving lagged over a lap behind the other Toyota hybrid, before fortune intervened to gift them the advantage, and victory in the 87th edition of Le Mans in front of a crowd of over 250,000 committed motor enthusiasts. Naturally, with the 2019 edition of the great race being the season finale of the WEC Super Season, the Japanese crew was keen on winning again. Nor completing a predictable one-two.
The No. 7, manned by Mike Conway, Jose Maria Lopez and Kamui Kobayashi, was the quicker auto all race and led the field for most of the 24 hours, until two unscheduled pit stops gave the lead away. "They deserve it today". The two Toyota TS050 hybrids had started first and second, with the number seven auto immediately setting the pace but with the gap repeatedly narrowed by safety vehicle periods. "The main goal this weekend was to win the championship", the Spaniard, who won his Formula One titles with Renault in 2005 and 2006, told Eurosport television. Congratulations to vehicle #8 not just today but also for winning the World Championship. But like his countryman Anthony Davidson before him, Toyota's British star appears to lack the sprinkling of luck that is required to secure a Le Mans win. Today luck was a big factor and this is part of motorsport. For them, it was more of a matter of which Toyota will cross the line first. "Sorry", team manager Rob Leupen said. We have a race now.
"We got into a situation where we caught a puncture at the end, and it hurts a lot that the team didn't respond well to that".
Fernando Alonso (TS050 HYBRID #8) "It is awesome to win Le Mans for the second time but the win came really unexpectedly".
Alonso, a two-time victor of the Monaco Grand Prix, is now leaving the series and hoping to become only the second driver after the late Briton Graham Hill to complete the so-called "Triple Crown of Motorsport".
Buemi, the former Toro Rosso driver and long-serving Red Bull test driver, is now a two-time WEC champion after previously winning the crown with Sky F1's Anthony Davidson in 2014. Before that, the number 17 SMP that had been in third place spun out in the early hours with Russian Egor Orudzhev at the wheel and the vehicle proving too damaged to continue.