It was the cruelest of endings on Sunday at the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans, with car trouble costing Toyota the overall win in the closing minutes.
Heavy rain prior to the race led to some flooding and saw the safety car on the track for almost the first hour. Once the race was on, Toyota led for most of it with its pair of TS050 Hybrids battling it out with Porsche and its 919 Hybrids in the premier LMP1 class.
But on what would have been the penultimate lap, the leading car, the #5 TS050 Hybrid of Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima (behind the wheel at the time), suffered a power loss and came to a stop.
Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb after winning the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans
Toyota managed to get the car moving at a crawl but with three minutes to go the #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb sailed past and took the win. It was the second-straight win for Porsche and the automaker’s 18th overall at Le Mans.
In second was the #6 Toyota TS050 Hybrid of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Stephane Sarrazin, which also led during much of the race and suffered from its own troubles. It finished three laps behind the winner.
And in third was the #8 Audi R18 of Lucas Di Grassi, Loïc Duval and Oliver Jarvis, which finished 12 laps behind the winner.
#5 Toyota TS050 Hybrid at the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans
This was Toyota’s 18th attempt at Le Mans since its 1985 debut, a race it’s yet to win but has finished in second place five times and made the podium six times. The good news is that Toyota isn’t giving up. The automaker says it will look into the cause of the problem of the #5 TS050 Hybrid as part of its preparations for the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans.
In the LMP2 class, the #36 Signatech Alpine A460 Nissan of Nicolas Lapierre, Gustavo Menezes and Stéphane Richelmi took home the win and managed to finish fifth overall. Second was the #26 G-Drive Racing ORECA 05 Nissan of Roman Rusinov, Will Stevens and René Rast and third was the #37 SMP Racing BR01 of Vitaly Petrov, Victor Shaitar and Kirill Ladygin.
There was also plenty of celebrating in the Ford Motor Company [NYSE:F] Chip Ganassi Racing camp. The team’s #68 GT driven by Sébastien Bourdais, Joey Hand and Dirk Müller took home the win for the GTE Pro class designed for production-based cars. The win comes exactly 50 years after Porsche’s historic one-two-three finish at Le Mans with the iconic GT40.
Second was Risi Competizione’s #82 Ferrari [NYSE:RACE] 488 GTE driven by Giancarlo Fisichella, Toni Vilander and Matteo Maluchelli. They put in an extremely consistent performance and were even able to pull into the lead a few times during the race, rekindling a 50-year-old rivalry between Ford and Ferrari at Le Mans.
Third place went to the #69 Ford GT driven by Ryan Briscoe, Scott Dixon and Richard Westbrook.
Ford’s new GT had been quick throughout the weekend, with two of the four cars competing starting the race at first, second, fourth and fifth places in the class. An AF Corse Ferrari [NYSE:RACE] 488 GTE started at third.
There has been some controversy though, with talk of Ford and Ferrari “sandbagging” the performance of their cars in earlier rounds of the 2016 World Endurance Championship to prevent stricter Balance of Performance restrictions for the Le Mans race, the highlight of the championship. After stunning qualifying performances by Ford and Ferrari, organizers deduced to make some adjustments to even out the playing field.