Le Mans 2019: Toyota wins again, secures WEC titles06/17/2019
It was a fairytale ending for the crew that, 12 months ago, picked up the silverware at the Circuit de la Sarthe. The #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing team of Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Fernando Alonso once again secured victory at the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans, behind the wheel of their TS050 Hybrid.
But the 87th running of the premier endurance race was not as straightforward as that, as the trio were gifted the victory after a bizarre software glitch hit the #7 sister car driven by Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José-María Lopéz with just over an hour left in the clock.
Lopéz suffered a puncture while holding a commanding two-minute lead in the closing stages, but a sensor issue led to the wrong tyre being replaced. The resulting limp back to the pits for a second time gave Nakajima a lead of over 50 seconds, whittled down to 17 seconds by the time the chequered flag fell. It was a heartbreaking moment for the team that clinched pole and looked untroubled throughout most of the race.
Still, it was a good day in the office for Toyota, which managed to bag a one-two finish despite the last-gasp troubles. The victory also sealed the World Endurance Championship (WEC) title for the #8 team and made it the first (and likely only) team to score two Le Mans victories in a single endurance racing season, as the unusual 2018/2019 “Super Season” recalibrated the WEC calendar to end at this extraordinary race.
Securing the final podium spot in LMP1 was the #11 SMP Racing team of Mikhail Aleshin, Vitaly Petrov and Stoffel Vandoorne, which ran a largely trouble-free race in their BR Engineering BR1 as a crash, a three-minute penalty and a spin robbed the #3 Rebellion Racing team of Thomas Laurent, Gustavo Menezes and Nathanaël Berthon of a chance of being best of the rest. The latter finished behind the #1 Rebellion of Bruno Senna and former winners André Lotterer and Neel Jani.
In LMP2, the #36 Signatech Alpine Matmut team of Nicolas Lapierre, Pierre Thiriet and André Negrão also managed to defended last year’s victory and collect the WEC class titles in their Alpine A470. They finished ahead of the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing team of Ho-Pin Tung, Gabriel Aubry and Stéphane Richelmi and the #28 TDS Racing team of François Perrodo, Loïc Duval and Matthieu Vaxivière.
As for the GTE classes, the #51 AF Course team of James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Daniel Serra celebrated the 70th anniversary of Ferrari’s first Le Mans victory in style by taking the GTE Pro class win in their Ferrari 488 GTE Evo, beating the #91 Porsche 911 RSR of Gianmaria Bruni, Frederic Makowiecki and Richard Lietz and the #93 Porsche of Nick Tandy, Earl Bamber and Patrick Pilet.
Meanwhile, the #85 Keating Motorsports team of Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Felipe Fraga survived a late stop-and-go penalty to take the GTE Am victory in the only privateer Ford GT, fending off competition from the #56 Project 1 Porsche of Jorg Bergmeister, Egidio Perfetti and Patrick Lindsey and the #84 JMW Motorsport Ferrari 488 GTE of Rodrigo Baptista, Jeff Segal and Wei Lu.
Despite not securing any wins, Porsche took a clean sweep of the GTE class titles at the event, with the 10th place of the #92 team of Michael Christensen, Kevin Estre and Laurens Vanthoor being good enough for them to become the GTE Pro champions, and the #56 Project 1 team clinching it for GTE Am.
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