Toyota heartbroken, but with heads held high after Le Mans loss

Photo: Toyota
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Toyota Gazoo Racing is obviously heartbroken following today’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, with a loss of drive occurring on the second-to-last lap reducing the power on the No. 5 Toyota TS050 Hybrid driven by Kazuki Nakajima, with co-drivers Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi. It forced the car to stop and was not classified as a result.

But the team has been nothing short of class in the hours since its elusive first win at Le Mans slipped from their grasp.

In a team release, those drivers on the No. 5 crew – as well as team president Toshio Sato – expressed their thoughts following this most bitter of defeats.

“I am incredibly proud of our team effort, not just today but since Le Mans last year,” Sato said. “Thank you to the team in Higashi-Fuji and Cologne, as well as our partners Oreca. The way we have responded to the pain of our 2015 disappointment, by developing an all-new chassis and powertrain in a short timeframe, has been impressive and the performance of the TS050 HYBRID was strong.

“We worked as one team and took part in an amazing Le Mans 24 Hours. Congratulations to Porsche on its victory. I have no words to describe our emotions today. It is simply heartbreaking but we will return stronger and more determined to win.”

Said Davidson, who was watching from the pit wall: “That was an unbelievable end to such a difficult race. You couldn’t have written the way it ended; no-one would ever have believed a movie if it ended like this. So to actually live through the experience is pretty hard to take, but it will make us stronger and we’ll be back.”

Buemi added, “It’s hard to find the words for what has happened today. We were in control of the race and were so close to the win that we all want. This is the biggest race of the year so it’s even tougher to accept. It is so disappointing for the whole team; we did the right preparation and we had the car to win. So we already look to next year when the target will be clear.”

Nakajima, who was behind the wheel, said, “First of all thank you to all the team members; we did everything right. The car was great to drive. It was tough to have Porsche #2 only 30 seconds behind me towards the end but we had the pace and we managed it very well. It was only two laps missing and it’s a pity we didn’t get the trophy; the team deserved to win. When I was doing my last lap to the checkered flag, all the marshals and fans were really kind to me and that was very emotional. I want to say thank you for that. Let’s come back stronger and grab that trophy.”

It was a case of mixed emotions for Toyota. The second car, the No. 6 car driven by Mike Conway, Stephane Sarrazin and Kamui Kobayashi, inherited second as a result – but it was a hollow one.

“I have mixed feelings. Second is okay but we are all gutted for car No. 5,” Conway said. “They drove a great race and were controlling it. You could see how upset everyone was; I really feel for them. We were fighting up there all race at the front so it was a good race in terms of the performance of the car. It’s okay to get one car on the podium but we wanted more.”

Porsche, which won,was nothing short of class on its own.