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

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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.

Santino Ferrucci will drive No. 14 for AJ Foyt Racing full time in 2023 IndyCar season

Santino Ferrucci AJ Foyt
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Santino Ferrucci will return to full-time racing in the NTT IndyCar Series next season, joining AJ Foyt Racing.

Ferrucci had made eight IndyCar starts with three teams since his last full-time season in 2020 while also racing part time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year.

He will drive the storied No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet for four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt’s team, which will field the car from its Waller, Texas headquarters.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be back in the INDYCAR Series full time,” Ferrucci said in a team release. “Being a part-time driver over the last two years has been hard for me, personally. I’m a race car driver, and I want to compete. Working with different teams has been exciting, and I’m proud that no matter which car I’ve raced, I’ve always shown speed and consistency. I couldn’t be more excited to join AJ Foyt Racing in the 14 Chevy. I can’t wait to make the best of it.”

Ferrucci, 24, had finished a career-best fourth in IndyCar four times, including the 104th Indy 500 in 2020. He was the 2019 Indy 500 rookie of the year with a sixth.

In nine Xfinity starts since 2021, Ferrucci has a career-best finish of 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I am thrilled to welcome Santino to the team,” Larry Foyt said in a release. “He’s shown a knack for getting toward the front of the field, and I think he is a racer who moves forward on race day. A.J. sees the fire in him and has enjoyed their meetings together. I think Santino’s experience will help his rookie teammate as well, so he is a great addition to our roster.”

Ferrucci will be teamed at AJ Foyt Racing with Benjamin Pedersen, who finished fifth in the 2022 Indy Lights standings. The team has yet to specify the number for Pedersen’s entry, which will be fielded out of its Indianapolis race shop.

Foyt’s two full-time drivers last season were Dalton Kellett and Kyle Kirkwood, who is moving to Andretti Autosport.