Brendon Hartley settled for second place as Toyota romped to a triumphant 1-2 finish in this year’s rendition of the Le Mans 24 Hour.
“It wasn’t disappointing,” Hartley said.
“For the team to take 1-2 here was incredibly important. To take the Hypercar and get it to last 24 hours was a big achievement.”
Victory for Toyota was somewhat sealed early into the race. Its nearest challenger in the Le Mans Hypercar class, Alpine’s LMP1 car, made a costly error to fall three laps behind.
From there, it was a matter of whether it would be the No.7 or No.8 Toyota that took the chequered flag first.
Battling back from its disastrous opening hour in which it was tagged into a spin, stopped with a mechanical problem, and ran off the road, the No.8 was still in contention for the win up until the 16th hour.
But the car was compelled to stop on track again for a complete systems reset.
An unsolvable fuel problem also meant the car regularly had to stop a lot earlier than anticipated to refuel.
“We were struggling to get all the fuel, so we started doing five lap stints, sometimes six,” Hartley said.
“We weren’t sure we were going to get to the end of the race.”
The No.7 did run into similar dramas late into the race but boasted an enormous lead that it did not affect the running order.
Ultimately, Hartley and the No.8 crew finished two laps down on their stablemates.
Meanwhile, Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez end their Le Mans-winning drought in commanding style.
“It’s hard to put this into words. After so many setbacks in recent years, to win it, it’s so emotional,” Conway said.
For all three drivers, this is their first Le Mans 24 victory.
“To be a part of this is amazing, a dream come true,” Lopez said. “I’ve come so far so many years for this dream and I couldn’t choose better teammates.”
For the other Kiwis in the race, the twice-around-the-clock affair was a mixed bag.
Earl Bamber retired before the 12-hour mark when co-driver Cooper MacNeil spun at the final chicane and damaged the chassis.
Meanwhile, Jaxon Evans held position for most of the second half to finish fifth in GTE-Am and only 30 seconds behind P4.