How Toyota’s Le Mans drivers made a remarkable comeback to finish on the podium

This year’s Hypercar field was the largest in decades. Picture: Supplied.

This year’s Hypercar field was the largest in decades. Picture: Supplied.

Published Jun 18, 2024


In an epic weekend of racing at the 24 hours of Le Mans Toyota Gazoo Racing finished a hard-earned second place podium in the 92nd edition of the famous race and the fourth round of the 2024 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).

The current world champions fought throughout the 24 hours with constantly changing weather conditions that ranged from sunshine to slight drizzle and pouring rain that necessitated an almost five hour safety car in the early hours of the morning.

In a 23-car Hypercar field that saw the #7 GRO10 HYBRID start at the back of the field after an unfortunate incident during qualifying, José María López, Kamui Kobayashi and Nyck de Vries made a remarkable comeback to secure second after pushing hard in the final laps, 14.221 seconds behind Ferrari who crossed the race with literally 1 percent left in their fuel tank.

An indication of how close racing was throughout the 24 hours, is that nine cars finished on the lead lap, a record for the race in front of more than 300,000 spectators.

Toyota led the race at various stages. Picture: Supplied.

Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa in their #8 GR010 HYBRID led the race for large stages including from the ninth to the 18th hour, but were denied a chance at victory when the car was pushed into a spin by the #51 Ferrari with two hours remaining, which relegated them to sixth but a strong clawback saw them cross the line in fifth position.

Throughout the race momentum ebbed and flowed between Cadillac, Ferrari, Porsche and Toyota, depending on traffic, slow zone timings and race incidents.

After a 19th-hour safety car, the top seven were covered by just four seconds.

After car #8’s spin it was up to López to push for honours who kept up a blistering pace following two earlier punctures and was in the lead inside the last two hours.

He needed a fuel stop with half an hour to go that saw him leave the pits with a 40 second deficit and despite pushing the car to its limit and the Ferrari’s tank quickly emptying it was not enough to take the chequered flag.

It was a hard fight for the podium this year. Picture: Supplied.

“This year at Le Mans, things happened before the race even started and then long after the start. But I never once felt uneasy because it is Kamui's (Kobayashi) team. I truly believed in the team that Kamui has built. Everyone on the team fought an extreme battle until the very end of the 24 hours.

“It was a great race, but the result was really frustrating! I told everyone before the race that we have the best mechanics, the best engineers, and the best drivers in the world, and I hope that we can turn their frustration into power and once again become a team that can be called the best in the world,” said team founder Akio Toyoda.

“It was a really great 24-hour race between athletes. Congratulations to everyone at Ferrari. Thank you also to Porsche and Cadillac who really fought until the very end.”

According to team principal and driver, car #7 Kobayashi it was a tough race and they could have won.

“We had a few issues. It was not a smooth 24 hours for the #7 car, but the whole team did such a great job throughout a very tough week. It was a phenomenal race through 24 hours, with every manufacturer fighting non-stop. Everyone wants to win this race and we were very close. Such a close finish makes us hungry to come back stronger next year and we will do our best to achieve that.”