Brendon Hartley has come from two laps down to give Toyota Gazoo Racing its third Le Mans 24 Hours victory in a row and a second triumph for the Kiwi.
A faultless drive in the final half of the race by Hartley and co-drivers Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima ensured they eased themselves to a five-lap thumping at the chequered flag.
A brake cooling drama and puncture in the first six hours of the race had threatened to derail the race for the #8, and they would only reclaim the lead courtesy of a mechanical issue for the #7 sister car.
But the trio remained composed across the night and into daylight to see off a valiant effort by the Rebellion Racing team to complete Toyota’s hat-trick.
For the first time in its storied history, Le Mans ran behind closed doors and Hartley’s win was deprived of the unique fan atmosphere that the race prides itself on. The Kiwi agreed before he clambered onto the roof in triumph that it does feel eerie and unusual with the absence of spectators.
“We miss the fans. It doesn’t feel quite the same as it normally does,” said Hartley.
“To win it with two different manufacturers feels amazing. I feel at home here, I love it.”
For Hartley, it’s his first Le Mans win for the Japanese manufacturer after winning the 2017 24 Hours with Porsche in the final year of the 919 programme.
Victory would almost certainly have been awarded to the #7 had they not occurred a turbo fault which left them in the pitlane for 30-minutes just after the 12-hour mark. The team of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez put up a sound recovery drive to claw back to third having gone done seven laps on the leader.
“I’m definitely running out of words to talk to the drivers of car #7,” said Toyota’s technical director Pascal Vasselon. “Car #7 was clearly a bit faster than car #8. Two times in a row they would deserve to win and something happened that was beyond their control, so I feel very sorry for the #7 drivers.
“They do everything right, they prepare well, they are fast and every time something goes wrong that is not in their hands. The entire team feels sorry for them.”
Now a three-time winner of the race, Nakajima said luck was involved in claiming the lead but praised his co-drivers and the #8 team for its faultless final stint where it formalised a convincing margin and stayed clear of trouble.
“Just incredible, what luck we had. ” Nakajima said. “I am very happy for the team that at least one of us won the race, that was something we had to make sure of. We started with a lot of problems in the beginning, and the 7 had a bigger issue later in the race. The car was good in the race though — I am happy with what we have done, I’m happy with the team.”
Toyota Gazoo Racing also secure the LMP1 FIA World Endurance Championship title with one more round to play out in Bahrain.
After the lone Bykolles entry became the top categories’ first retirement, Rebellion emerged as Toyota’s only challengers. A commendable drive by the #1 R-13 had the team finish second while a last-hour mechanical gremlin dropped the second Rebellion out of contention which gifted the final podium position to the resurgent #7 Toyota.
United Autosports safely converted its early race lead into victory in LMP2 despite a late safety car which bunched up the leaders. Australian racer James Allen crashed heavily at Porsche Curves with 40-minutes on the clock, resulting in the race’s fourth safety car intervention.
Having hunted down and overtaken the runaway Ferrari as ashen skies began to roll over the circuit and sprinkles of rain shifted the momentum of several cars, Alex Lynn, Maxime Martin and Harry Tincknell went on to secure a dominant victory for Aston Martin in GTE Pro.
The British marque also secured top honours in GTE Am with Charlie Eastwood charging away from the challenging pack off the safety car restart. Second in class went to Australian GT ace Marr Campbell in the Dempsey-Proton Porsche.
|1||LMP1||Buemi, Nakajima, Hartley||387 laps|
|2||LMP1||Senna, Nato, Menezes||+ 5 Laps|
|3||LMP1||Conway, Kobayashi, Lopez||+ 6 Laps|
|4||LMP1||Dumas, Berthon, Deletraz||+ 39.408s|
|5||LMP2||Hanson, Albuquerque, Di Resta||+ 17 Laps|
|6||LMP2||Davidson, Da Costa, Gonzalez||+ 32.831s|
|7||LMP2||Jamin, Canal, Vaxiviere||+ 19 Laps|
|8||LMP2||Negrao, Ragues, Laurent||+ 20 Laps|
|9||LMP2||Rusinov, Vergne, Jensen||+ 57.578s|
|10||LMP2||Lafargue, Chatin, Bradley||+ 21 Laps|
|11||LMP2||Lapierre, Borga, Coigny||+ 22 Laps|
|12||LMP2||Falb, Trummer, McMurry||+ 1m31.640s|
|13||LMP2||Calderon, Florsch, Visser||+ 23 Laps|
|14||LMP2||Lacorte, Belicchi, Sernagiotto||+ 24 Laps|
|15||LMP2||Pilet, Tilley, Kennard||+ 51.762s|
|16||LMP2||Hedman, Hanley, Van der Zande||+ 26 Laps|
|17||LMP2||Owen, Brundle, Van Uitert||+ 28 Laps|
|18||LMP2||Yamanaka, Foster, Merhi||+ 36 Laps|
|19||LMP2||Van Eerd, Van der Garde, De Vries||+ 38 Laps|
|20||GTE Pro||Martin, Lynn, Tincknell||+ 41 Laps|
|21||GTE Pro||Pier Guidi, Calado, Serra||+ 1m33.164s|
|22||GTE Pro||Thiim, Sorensen, Westbrook||+ 44 Laps|
|23||GTE Pro||Pla, Bourdais, Gounon||+ 48 Laps|
|24||GTE Am||Yoluc, Eastwood, Adam||+ 1m33.407s|
|25||GTE Am||Ried, Pera, Campbell||+ 2m23.159s|
|26||GTE Am||Perrodo, Collard, Nielsen||+ 2m26.206s|
|27||GTE Am||Perfetti, Ten Voorde, Cairoli||+ 2m34.526s|
|28||LMP2||Grist, Kapadia, Wells||+ 49 Laps|
|29||GTE Am||Wainwright, Barker, Watson||+ 50 Laps|
|30||GTE Am||Heistand, Root, Magnussen||+ 52 Laps|
|31||GTE Pro||Bruni, Lietz, Makowiecki||+ 6.187s|
|32||GTE Am||Piovanetti, Negri Jr., Ledogar||+ 2m49.871s|
|33||GTE Am||Dalla Lana, Gunn, Farfus||+ 54 Laps|
|34||GTE Am||Gostner, Frey, Gatting||+ 55 Laps|
|35||GTE Pro||Christensen, Estre, Vanthoor||+ 56 Laps|
|36||GTE Am||Inthraphuvasak, Legeret, Andlauer||+ 1m23.705s|
|37||GTE Am||Schiavoni, Pianezzola, Ruberti||+ 2m58.825s|
|38||GTE Am||Felbermayr, Beretta, Van Splunteren||+ 57 Laps|
|39||GTE Am||Flohr, Castellacci, Fisichella||+ 1m11.360s|
|40||GTE Am||Keating, Fraga, Bleekemolen||+ 61 Laps|
|41||LMP2||Smiechowski, Binder, Isaakyan||+ 62 Laps|
|42||GTE Am||Grimes, Mowlem, Hollings||+ 24.638s|
|43||GTE Am||Brooks, Piguet, Laskaratos||+ 74 Laps|
|44||LMP2||Allen, Capillaire, Milesi||+ 30 Laps|
|45||GTE Pro||Rigon, Molina, Bird||+ 47 Laps|
|46||GTE Am||Chen, Blomqvist, Gomes||+ 114 Laps|
|47||GTE Am||Preining, Bastien, De Leener||+ 149 Laps|
|48||GTE Am||Mastronardi, Cressoni, Piccini||+ 176 Laps|
|49||LMP2||Tung, Aubry, Stevens||+ 246 Laps|
|50||LMP2||Montoya, Buret, Rojas||+ 195 Laps|
|51||GTE Pro||Macneil, Vilander, Segal||+ 202 Laps|
|52||GTE Am||Kimura, Abril, Cozzolino||+ 215 Laps|
|53||LMP2||Cullen, Jarvis, Tandy||+ 282 Laps|
|54||LMP2||Hirschi, Tereschenko, Gommendy||+ 287 Laps|
|55||LMP1||Dillmann, Spengler, Webb||+ 290 Laps|
|56||LMP2||Yamashita, Patterson, Fjordbach||+ 299 Laps|
|57||GTE Am||Ulrich, Gorig, West||+ 307 Laps|
|58||GTE Am||Cameron, Scott, Griffin||+ 309 Laps|
|59||LMP2||Tambay, Maris, D’Ansembourg||+ 361 Laps|