Brendon Hartley is relishing what he says was a flawless performance by Toyota Gazoo Racing to overcome brake troubles and claim their third successive Le Mans 24 Hours title.
For Hartley, the win is his second at the La Sarthe venue and his first for Toyota after being drafted in to replace Fernando Alonso in this year’s World Endurance Championship.
The Kiwi initially looked set to finish behind his #7 Toyota teammates after a brake cooling drama had him and co-drivers Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima fall two laps behind the leader.
However, as the night stint wore on, the leading #7 rapidly began to lose performance and returned to the garage with a turbo problem. Toyota spent half-an-hour repairing the car and in doing so forfeited the lead to Hartley.
Once in front, the Kiwi drove faultlessly to the chequered flag. A result he said afterwards came from a perfectly executed race.
“I am proud of my team-mates and the whole team around us. It has been a learning curve for me coming to this team. Séb and Kazuki have helped me getting up to speed in a very fast and complex race car,” Hartley said.
“Other than a few little issues with the car in the beginning and things that didn’t go our way, we did more or less a perfect race.
“We had an amazing group of engineers and mechanics behind the scenes trying to get around the brake problem and giving us setup changes to try and get the balance right.
“But everything was executed really well, and it was great.”
His second Le Mans win is also the first with the absence of fans and the Kiwi says the lack of atmosphere has muted the usual post-race celebrations.
“The win really hasn’t sunk in yet. I would say the emotion is not quite the same than what I have experienced before without the fans, and I would be lying if I didn’t say that,” he added.
“So, I think the message to the fans is that we miss you and you are a big part of this race as well. We hope to see you next year.”
Hartley’s win also secures Toyota the LMP1 championship for the 2019/20 season and elevates himself into the lead of the drivers’ standings with one more race remaining.
His only World Endurance Championship win came in 2017 with Porsche, the last season before the German manufacturer exited the category.
The final round of the championship will be the 8 Hours of Bahrain on November 14, a race Hartley has finished on the podium in on three occasions but has never won.