Akio Toyoda (JPN) TOYOTA GAZOO Racing. Photo: Toyota

Toyoda on Le Mans agony: ‘Sorry we weren’t able to let you drive all out’

Leave a comment

Toyota’s realistic chances of victory at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans went away in the overnight hours with the Nos. 7 and 9 Toyota TS050 Hybrids retiring within half an hour of each other with a clutch problem and accident damage, respectively. The remaining Toyota Gazoo Racing entry, the No. 8 car, rallied from its own front motor issues to finish nine laps back of the winning Porsche.

Here are the entire words of Akio Toyoda, President, Toyota Motor Corporation, presented to the team after this latest gut-wrenching loss at a race Toyota is still yet to win.

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing.
Le Mans 24 Hours Race, 12th to 18th June 2017
Circuit de la Sarthe, Le Mans, France. Photo: Toyota

“Sorry we weren’t able to let you drive all out.”

Normally, it would be proper to start off with words of appreciation for the support provided to us by our fans. However, for this time at Le Mans, I think I must first direct my opening words to our drivers.

To me, at Le Mans for the first time, our drivers said, “We want you up together with us at the center of the podium”, “For that, we definitely don’t want to lose”, and “So fight together with us.”

In return, I said: “Drive all out. Trust the cars the mechanics readied for you. Enjoy Le Mans.”

Despite telling them such, I was not able to allow them to drive all out. This, I truly regret. Even though our drivers drove believing in our cars, I can only say how sorry and how full of regret I am.

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing.
Le Mans 24 Hours Race, 12th to 18th June 2017
Circuit de la Sarthe, Le Mans, France.

I believe that the Toyota engineers, mechanics and parts suppliers, who built our cars for this battle, all feel the same.

Therefore, bearing the burden as a representative of all such people, please let me say once again: “Sorry we weren’t able to let you drive all out.”

Also, to all the people related to the Toyota team, including our nine drivers, I would like to share two things on my mind at this moment.

The first is for our fans.

To all the fans who supported us believing in victory for Toyota, I am truly sorry that we were not able to meet your expectations.

And for believing in us and giving us your passionate support for 24 hours all the way to the end, I want to express my deepest appreciation. Thank you. Thank you all so very much.

Once again, Toyota will strive for the day on which we can, together, have smiles on our faces.

Dr. Wolfgang Porsche, chairman of Porsche Supervisory Board, and Akyo Toyoda, President, Toyota Motor Corporation. Photo: Porsche

The second is for the Porsche team.

After last year’s battle, I happily received many comments from people at Porsche recognizing us as a rival.

To live up to having been called a “rival”, I had thought that what we needed to do this year was to again put up a brilliant fight that would captivate the fans.

That is why the team was able to take up bold challenges that resulted in new technologies and skills.

To the Porsche team, I say congratulations. And I also say thank you very much.

In the end, however, Toyota was not able to put up the kind of fight that could captivate the fans, like it did last year.

This time, both Porsche and we, Toyota, were not able to complete without incident 24 hours of driving in the hybrid cars that we put to the challenge on the roads of Le Mans.

Both even winning car No. 2 and our car No. 8, which completed the race, were forced to undergo time-consuming, trouble-caused repairs, before struggling to cross the finish line.

While the hybrid technology that has advanced through competition in the FIA World Endurance Championship puts its abilities on display in six-hour races, it might be that it is not yet ready for the long distance of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The power of electricity is absolutely necessary for cars take on a more-emotional presence.

Le Mans is a precious laboratory in which we can continue to take up the challenges related to the technologies involved, putting such technologies to the test in an extreme environment.

We will hone our technologies even further and ripen them to provide our customers with technologies that will truly make them smile. And we, Toyota, will go on making effort after effort so that we can continue making ever-better cars.

We invite you to look forward to what we will be able to achieve. Thank you.

Akio Toyoda

President

Toyota Motor Corporation

With 200 IndyCar wins in the books, Penske looks for No. 201 at Indy

Leave a comment

The history of Team Penske at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a storied one that features 16 Indy 500 wins, including a pair of four-time winners in Al Unser and Rick Mears, and number of utterly dominant performances.

Yet, they’ll head to this year’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 looking to avenge a pair of relatively subpar performances in each of the last two years.

Power was the only Penske driver to finish in the Top 10 in 2016, with Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud finishing 11th and 19th after fuel strategy intervened late in the race. And last year, all the Penske cars were somewhat down on pace compared to other teams, notably the Honda cars.

Power was the only Penske driver to qualify for the Fast Nine Pole Shootout last year – he qualified ninth. Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves were 18th and 19th in the grid, while Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud were 22nd and 23rd.

And only Castroneves was in winning contention in the final laps as he battled eventual winner Takuma Sato – Montoya was sixth, while Pagenaud was 14th and the only other Penske running at the end. Both Newgarden and Power crashed out on Lap 183.

This year, however, could see a return to the dominant form we’re used to seeing from the Penske outfit. All four cars entered – Pagenaud, Power, Newgarden, and Castroneves – qualified inside the top nine, with Pagenaud and Power on the front row.

They have all been near the front of the time sheets, especially in laps without a tow from another car, and the indication is that the Penske cars may be the fastest ones in the field.

All told, it leads to very high expectations for a team that already expects highly of itself.

Leading the way for Penske is current points leader and defending IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden. Newgarden’s best Indy 500 finish is third in 2016, but he only has one other Top 10 there – ninth in 2015.

But, with an IndyCar title now under his belt, Newgarden has his eyes set on an Indy 500 win.

Josef Newgarden looks to add an Indy 500 crown to his 2017 championship. Photo: IndyCar

“I think Indianapolis…is certainly next on the list for me,” he detailed in a press conference ahead of qualifying. “It’s not next on the list for the team, they’ve won it many times. The good thing is we have four great opportunities, especially having Helio back. I think we have one of the best opportunities in the entire field to win this race.”

Pagenaud, like Newgarden, is also looking for his first Indy triumph, though his record there isn’t quite as good. He has been fast at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but only has two Top 10s to show for it – eighth in 2013 with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and tenth in 2015 in his first year with Penske.

And a Pagenaud win would be somewhat historic – it would be only the fourth time a French driver has won the “500,” and the first since 1920 (Gaston Chevrolet).

Pagenaud explained that this race always holds a place as a top priority, and that success at Indy is all about preparation.

Simon Pagenaud looks to become only the first French driver to win an Indy 500 since Gaston Chevrolet in 1920. Photo: IndyCar

“It really is our number one goal. In Roger and Tim’s heart, it’s the most important one,” Pagenaud declared. “We prepare really hard. The team does a fantastic job at just understanding every bit and component of this new aero kit, trying to extract the best out of the equipment.”

Pagenaud added, “On the driver side, there’s a lot you can do obviously to review the past races, try to focus yourself, try to put yourself into the race before it happens, try to just improve. That’s what we try to do every day. That’s the goal. That’s why this group is so good. We push each other so hard that you always try to push the limits away.”

Power, the man who delivered Penske his 200th IndyCar win, is no stranger to success at IMS, having won the Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course three times. But, he is yet to find Victory Lane on the oval, and that leaves a void in an otherwise stellar career.

Will Power has won the INDYCAR Grand Prix three times, and looks for his first win at the “500” this weekend. Photo: IndyCar

Power spotlighted the opportunity in front of him, and detailed that running in traffic has been a strength thus far through practice.

“It’s fantastic to have that opportunity. Obviously very focused on (trying to win),” he revealed. “I feel like we have a really good opportunity to win this year. I mean, I think Chevrolet has brought a really good engine. I feel like we’re really fast. Running in traffic and such, I felt like we’ve been pretty strong, especially when you get to the front.”

Castroneves is the only Penske driver with Indy 500 wins on his resume. But, with three wins to his name, Castroneves is more than familiar with IMS glory.

Now a part-time IndyCar driver who races full-time in the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship with the Acura Team Penske outfit, Castroneves’ sole focus is on getting that elusive fourth win.

Helio Castroneves looks to join the four-time winners club at the Indy 500. Photo: IndyCar

And he has momentum on his side too, coming off a debut IMSA win for the Acura Penske outfit at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. A fourth Indy 500 win would put an exclamation point on the month for Castroneves.

“I think about it every day,” he said when asked about how often he ponders getting that fourth win. “It was one of those incredible ones, I have phenomenal car, the Pennzoil car was really strong last year. Obviously coming back here, first of all, I want to thank Roger and (team president Tim Cindric) for giving me the opportunity to be back at the Indy 500. It’s such a special place for so many people. Just to be back and able to continue our goal and pursue for the number four, it’s incredible.”

Pagenaud and Power will flank pole sitter Ed Carpenter on the front, starting second and third respectively. Newgarden starts fourth, while Castroneves will start eighth.

Follow@KyleMLavigne