In the end, it took a virtually flawless performance to win the 90th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours, as the No8 Toyota GR010 Hypercar crossed the line after a metronomic display.
It was a fifth consecutive win for Toyota and a fourth for Sebastien Buemi who took the top step of the podium alongside team newcomer Ryo Hirakawa and Brendon Hartley, who qualified the car on pole.
The No7 Toyota of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José Maria López came in second; its challenge neutered by a small issue with the motor that cost it a lap, while nearest challengers Glickenhaus finished five laps down in third.
“I was overwhelmed with emotions when I crossed the line,” said Hartley, who won the race for the third time. “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.
Toyota ultimately went unchallenged in 1-2 performance, despite issues for second car
James Moy Photography/Getty Images
“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.”
“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,” added Buemi. “It will take a little bit of time before it sinks in because it’s hard to realise what we achieved today.”
“We were flat-out for so long” Brendon Hartley
Despite some doubts over the reliability of the car’s hybrid system, Toyota set a fierce pace from the moment that the flag dropped on Saturday afternoon. The cars quickly raced away from the rest of the field, mostly running within seconds of each other for 16 hours, as the lead changed several times. “We were flat-out for so long,” said Hartley.
Just before 8am, however, the No7 car pulled over to the side of the track as Lopez reset the car after a problem with the front motor, and then headed to the pits where more hurried software resets cleared the issue.
The glitch had cost a lap and it gave the No8 car breathing space to focus on the finish.
Glickenhaus impressed in 3-4 finish but ultimately had no answer to Toyota
Joao Filipe / DPPI
“After car No7 had their problem we backed off and took minimal risk,” said Hartley.
The result was predictable but the almost faultless feat no less impressive, which will give next year’s Hypercar entrants plenty to think about.
Ahead of the race, Toyota’s pace had been checked by the Balance of Performance mechanism, which raised the speed at which its hybrid system could be deployed ahead, and Glickenhaus was positive about its chances of victory.
The team qualified a second off the pace and was within 20sec of the Toyotas after the first hour, but would soon hit problems, the No709 car having to replace a sensor in the second hour, eventually finishing five laps down. The 708 machine sustained damage after Olivier Pla spun at Tertre Rouge and damaged his suspension. A delay getting the car restarted, a slow in-lap and the repair work cost the best part of half an hour but it did finish fourth, ten laps down.