Start, Le Mans 24 Hours, 2020

Toyota take third consecutive Le Mans victory as LMP1 era ends


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Toyota took a widely-expected third consecutive victory at the Le Mans 24 Hours, though a setback for one of their cars prevented the Japanese manufacturer sweeping the top two places.

Former Formula 1 drivers Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley shared the winning number eight TS050, which covered 387 laps of a strangely empty Circuit de la Sarthe, Covid-19 preventing the race being open to spectators. Facing no manufacturer opponents for the third year in a row, the Toyotas realistically only had themselves to beat.

The sister number seven car of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez had started the race from pole position 24 hours earlier. But having pulled ahead early on as their team mates suffered brake problems, a turbo problem sent the pole-winners into the pits for half an hour, leaving them several laps adrift.

The opened the door for the Rebellion car of Bruno Senna, Norman Nato and Gustavo Menezes – the latter having driven a superb qualifying lap to split the Toyota on the grid – to take second place. The number seven car completed the podium, followed by the second Rebellion of Romain Dumas, Nathanael Berthon and Formula 2 driver Louis Deletraz.

In the final Le Mans for the LMP1 class, the only other entry in the top category dropped out of the race early on. A rear wing failure on Bruno Spengler’s ByKolles entry sent him into the barriers, bringing an early end to the race for the car he shared with Oliver Webb and Tom Dillmann.

Fifth place therefore went to LMP2 class winners Phil Hanson, Filipe Albuquerque and Paul di Resta in their ORECA run by Zak Brown’s United Autosports team. The trio were pushed hard by Anthony Davidson, Antonio Felix da Costa and Roberto Gonzalez in their JOTA-run entry. An all-ORECA podium in LMP2 was completed by Nicolas Jamin, Julien Canal and Mathieu Vaxiviere for Panis.

Aston Martin won the two GT classes. Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell shared victory in the eight-car GTE Pro field, while Salih Yoluc, Charlie Eastwood and Jonny Adam took honours in GTE Am.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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17 comments on “Toyota take third consecutive Le Mans victory as LMP1 era ends”

  1. Three wins with no real opposition. Of course few will remember in 20-50 years but still… I’m hoping for real competition at the top category as from next season.

    1. Before the Ford GT40 sweep in ’66, Ferrari didn’t have much competition that decade… & the GT40s weren’t exactly fighting tooth & nail for that sweep. Porsche didn’t have much “real opposition” ’81-’88. & Until Peugeot & Porsche returned to winning ways, Audi ran pretty much unopposed in the 2000s… it’s not like Toyota are the only team to have won Le Mans when the competition wasn’t exactly fierce, so I’d agree & don’t expect it should matter.

      1. There’s a difference however in the type of no competition. Being head and shoulders above the rest of LMP1 cars is not the same as literally being no competition as not having other competitors in your class as Toyota has benefited from.

        1. True… but I still wouldn’t count that against them too much. They’ve been involved in some really close & memorable fights for the title over the years. At least they’re benefiting from the competition leaving the class rather than them just coming in & specifically taking advantage of a weak era.

      2. While you have a point but I think the key difference is that Toyota is only the dominate winning team is because the better team (Audi) had left the class and Toyota stayed around to cherry pick by to compete/beat privateer teams that do not remotely have the resources to compete against a manufacturer team. It’s a bit of a hollow win

        Rebellion are the ones that should really be commended and respected. They’re the ones taking on a great challenge and not afraid of punching above there weight.

        1. @redpill it should also be noted that, not only do the privateers not have the resources of Toyota, the regulations have been written specifically to give Toyota’s LMPH cars a distinct advantage over privateer entries like Rebellion – for example, those privateer cars are intentionally designed to be both slower and required to run shorter stints than the LMPH cars at Le Mans.

          There have certainly been periods where the competition in the top class at Le Mans was fairly weak, but rarely to the extent that the rulemakers have actively written in an advantage to ensure that a particular entry will win (the ACO has said that it doesn’t want those privateers to be able to win).

        2. The other better team (Porsche) also cleared off….

  2. Can’t wait for Hypercars next year.

  3. FlyingLobster27
    20th September 2020, 19:17

    Only checked in occasionally as I had something going on IRL, but from a distance, this looks like the best Le Mans Toyota has won. The balance with the Rebellion was considerably better than than the previous 2 years, and the race was decided by genuine mechanical issues, not complete howlers. Shame the #7 was on the wrong end again.

  4. Three in a row ALL by car #8. Dominance level was high. Towards the end they held a five lap lead. That’s about a 20 minute lead. Nakajima could have stopped one foot shy of the finish line and washed the car. He had enough time. When spic n span he could push it to victory. It was that kind of dominance.
    As a Owner of Toyota I sort of contributed to the victory by investing in the TRD program by buying a set of TRD Racing license plate frames for my Sienna Van. Go ahead and laugh at least my money helped our program get the tri-victory at Lemans completed. $20 goes along ways nowadays. Such a good feeling to my cars kick ass for 24 hours. Go TRD

  5. I commented on a previous article that mentioned ByKolles developing a new hypercar for next year and in this edition the commentators (on Eurosport) were saying the car was really good and fast and bla-bla-bla and then of course they don’t finish the race for the 11th consecutive time!.
    Kudos for the team to have their own car and try every year, but damn, they seem like a “joke”.
    Let’s see if next year brings a change of fortune for them (new regulations)…

    1. @bakano bear in mind that the ByKolles entry is a converted LMP2 car – it started out in 2013 as the Lotus T128 – so it’s fairly worn out by this point.

      You are right that the CLM P/01 doesn’t exactly have a great finishing record – from 2017 to 2019, out of the 11 races that car participated in, it retired from 6 of them (i.e. it had a 55% DNF rate during that period).

    2. Jack (@jackisthestig)
      21st September 2020, 13:17

      For all the years ByKolles have been participating in the WEC I can only recall a single race at Spa when they looked half decent.

      I cannot understand why they persevere with trying to compete in LMP1 on the cheap. In 2017, the one year they could have won, they didn’t turn up! I can’t see how they will fare any differently building their own hypercar, being involved with that team must be as agonising as a trip to Colin Kolles’ dental practice.

  6. And then remember a few years ago Le Mans commentators were so proud to be “better” than F1 and every car manufacturer was “desperate” to get into LMP.

    Let’s hope the Hypercar formula revives it again, but looking at the bespoke machines demonstrated for the new series so far, show it’s probably going to be more like the exact same thing again.

    1. Such a joke in retrospect

  7. I still maintain the last real LeMans victory by a Japanese manufacturer was the Mazda 787B in 1991. They at least had serious competitors, beating the likes of Jaguar, Porsche, and Mercedes. Toyota’s string of victories have basically been unopposed and came only after the juggernauts of Audi and Porsche left the field.

  8. Let’s not forget that we’re not just saying goodbye to Toyota, but to the 2nd and 4th place finishers as well.

    Rebellion will not return to racing in 2021!
    As a long time fan of the team I was so happy to see them split the Toyota’s in qualifying. I think 2nd and 4th is the best result they could have realistically hoped for.

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