June 25, 2017

Toyota lead Le Mans as Porsche struggle

19 June 2017, 03:08 | Sandy Nunez

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The no 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Timo Bernhard/Earl Bamber/Brendon Hartley retook the lead of the race with less than an hour of the 24 left. Unfortunately, it didn't end there, as the No. 7 Toyota, driven by Kamui Kobayashi, one of the best drivers in the world, suffered a power issue and came to a stop.

The Japanese team had been expected to play a key role in the race and offer a significant threat to the eventual winners, but a series of retirements and racing incidents saw them fall short.

Less than ten minutes later, Toyota's number nine vehicle driven by Nicolas Lapierre, was hit by another auto.

The race was started by Formula One chairman and chief executive Chase Carey waving a gold tassled French flag with FIA head Jean Todt and Automobile Club de l'Ouest president Pierre Fillon in attendance.

After the #95 Aston Martin that led the majority of the race hit a wall and lost contact with the leaders early Sunday morning, each of the five manufacturers in the field were left with exactly one auto on the lead lap and equal chance to take the class win.

Porsche's win is a devastating blow to Toyota's bid in securing its first 24 Hours of Le Mans win.

He and his co-drivers had to settle for ninth this time around.

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Toyota Gazoo Racing expresses its regret and sadness at the unacceptable turn of events in a race which started with high hopes of a first-ever victory at Le Mans.

The No.26 G-Drive LMP2 auto started on pole after a mighty effort from F2 racer Alex Lynn, but the team's race quickly unravelled when Roman Rusinov slipped to 14th on the first lap, before a spin and trip to the pits for a nose change.

Toyota Gazoo Racing had been tipped to take the title from the German carmakers by both fans and bookmakers, but once again it was not to be.

As a bleary-eyed and sun-baked 250,000 crowd watched on, Bernhard crossed the line with a lap to spare over Dutch-born Tung with Nelson Piquet Junior in another Oreca in third. Unfortunately, they had to come into the pits to fix some lights at the rear of the vehicle that weren't working. "When I heard it [the engine] go 'bang, ' I thought 100 percent our race was over", Bamber said.

"I tried to come back to the pits but it wasn't possible".

It was a matter of fighting back into the top five at first, then that became a podium and then a podium became a win. Previously, Toyota had the race lead, but they quickly gave it up to Nick Tandy driving the No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid. "I know how hard everyone at Porsche has worked for this one day, one 24 hours, and I know Toyota would be working as equally as hard". Elliott was second in both MI races previous year, and again this time.

Chan, who was absent, is the latest silver screen star to be seduced by Le Mans after Steve McQueen, Paul Newman and Patrick Dempsey.

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