Toyota claimed its fourth consecutive win at the Le Mans 24 Hours as British ace Mike Conway and his team-mates Kamui Kobayashi and José María López finally ended their personal hoodoo at the great race by steering the #7 GR010 Hybrid to victory.
The race marked the beginning of the new Hypercar era at Le Mans, with Toyota picking up from where it left off in LMP1 to score a dominant one-two.
Critics will point once again to the lack of opposition faced by the Le Mans Hypercar (LMH) cars run out of Cologne by Gazoo Racing. But the manner of the success remained impressive, as only punctures and a fuel pick-up glitch that struck both cars threatened to derail the campaign, with machinery that until last weekend was unproven over this distance in a competitive context.
“It was a hard race,” Conway insisted. “We knew we had an issue on the car for the last six hours and that could have been a really big problem, but the team came up with a solution to keep us going. All credit to them for getting a one-two finish. It is really special in the circumstances.
“This race is never easy. Even if you're out on your own at the front, anything can happen. We can enjoy it now, because a weight is lifted off us.”
Buemi hit by Glickenhaus at the first corner
The pair of SCG 007s fielded by American firm Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus were the only other new LMH cars Toyota faced, but a test-topping performance the previous week underlined how this project shouldn't be underestimated, especially as both cars got to the finish.
Still, the race didn’t start well for Glickenhaus, after Olivier Pla in the #708 entry collided at the first corner with the #8 Toyota driven by Sébastien Buemi, straight from the start. The incident derailed the #8 challenge, and although Buemi quickly recovered following a systems reset, he and his team-mates never gained the upper hand over the sister #7 for the rest of the race. In that sense, the first-corner collision was a decisive moment in the final result.
Frantic finish in LMP2 almost ends in disaster
Our predictions that an LMP2 runner could finish on the podium and even win overall proved wide of the mark as the five LMH entries all made it to the finish with remarkable and frankly surprising reliability.
But while the Toyotas were never seriously challenged by the third-placed Alpine A480 (a ‘grandfathered’ LMP1 car running with heavy restrictions), the fight for LMP2 honours lived up to expectations, ending in a climax that won’t quickly be forgotten.