The victory, in the penultimate round of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), means Toyota Gazoo Racing is crowned Teams’ World Champions, holding an unassailable 57-point lead over Rebellion Racing, its third title following those in 2014, 2018 and 2019.
The race marked the final appearance at Le Mans for the 1,000PS, four-wheel-drive TS050 Hybrid which has set a new standard for efficiency and performance at La Sarthe. Using 35 per cent less fuel than the first generation of LMP1 hybrids from 2012, the TS050 Hybrid performs around 10 seconds a lap faster. It holds the fastest ever lap and the race lap record alongside its four consecutive pole positions and three victories.
Those achievements inspired the GR Super Sport, a hypercar born in Le Mans and it made its public track debut moments before the race started. A customised development version completed a demonstration lap before returning the winners’ trophy just before the 1.30pm start, (UK time) for which the No7 lined up on pole position, with the No8 in third.
Aside from 10 laps around the six hour mark, the No7 held the advantage at the front of the field, building a one lap lead by half distance. But shortly before 3am, with Kamui at the wheel, it suffered reduced power which forced it into the garage. A damaged exhaust manifold was replaced in less than 30 minutes and Kamui re-joined in fourth place, six laps off the lead and four laps behind the third-placed No3 Rebellion.
That left the No8 in a clear lead, having recovered from its own troubles first with a puncture, then a debris-damaged brake duct which cost time at two pit stops before a 10 minute repair in the seventh hour. But they never gave up and fought back into second place before No7.
Sébastien, Kazuki and Brendon controlled the rest of the race from the front, establishing a five lap lead. For the third year in a row, Kazuki crossed the finish line to win the Le Mans 24 Hours, cementing his status as the most successful Japanese driver at La Sarthe.
Mike, Kamui and José initially made up ground on third place but the No7 sustained floor damage after hitting debris, which compromised aerodynamic performance. However, the podium battle came alive in the final hour when the No3 Rebellion first crashed on track and then could not exit the pits, allowing José to earn third, taking the flag six laps behind the sister No8 car and one lap adrift of the second placed No1 Rebellion.
A significant point swing in favour of the No8 crew at Le Mans means the race for the drivers’ World Championship title therefore goes down to the last race of the 2019-2020 season, on 14 November in Bahrain. The No8 car holds a seven point lead with a maximum of 39 available in Bahrain.