From the outset of the world’s most important endurance race a day ago, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that Toyota would take the win again. As the lone manufacturer-entered Hybrid-powered prototype in the field, Toyota has significantly more power to play with than any other car. The only question that remained pertained to which Toyota prototype would take that win.
The stakes were set in qualifying where the #7 car of Jose Maria Lopez, Mike Conway, and Kamui Kobayashi nabbed the pole position ahead of the #8 of Kazuki Nakajima, Fernando Alonso, and Sebastien Buemi. From the drop of the tricolore, the 7 streaked out a huge lead, and Mike Conway put in more than one hero-level stint pounding out fast lap after fast lap. Fernando Alonso, especially in the overnight segment, was visibly frustrated that his car didn’t have nearly the top-end speed to compete with the 7 on outright performance.
As the race wound down to its final hour, things still looked much the same, as the 7 stayed out front over the 8 with more than a lap in hand. Then the bad luck came. A couple of hours before the finish, the leading Toyota had a deflated tire. No problem, pit for a fresh one and keep going. After another stint of problem-free running, the stint after that was cut to just 2 laps as another tire went down again, presumably from something on the circuit. Still plenty of time in hand, pit for a single tire and get back out still in the lead.
A third puncture had the #7 slow before it could even reach the Mulsanne straight. By the time Jose Maria Lopez had trundled around the track on a flat and had four new Michelins fitted, the #8 had moved past into the lead.
That was the race done and dusted. Three failed tires in three hours. Toyota still gets a 1-2 finish, but the “wrong” car won it. Congratulations to the FIA WEC championship winning car for punctuating an incredible season with two straight Le Mans wins. Toyota, Kazuki Nakajima, Fernando Alonso, and Sebastien Buemi are double Le Mans winners.
Speaking of double Le Mans winners, the Signatech Alpine Matmut LMP2 car of Nicolas Lapierre, Andre Negrao, and Pierre Thiriet have also won the class title and Le Mans laurels.
AF Corse’s #51 Ferrari 488 GTE took home the GTE Pro class victory, and the gorgeous Purple Wynn’s Ford of Keating Motorsport fought extraordinarily hard to win the GTE Am class.