After its long run of frustration at Le Mans, Toyota Gazoo Racing certainly isn’t going to have any regrets over the somewhat anticlimactic nature of its 1-2 finish in the 87th running of the 24 Hours. But winners Fernando Alonso and Sebastien Buemi admitted their focus was more on the FIA WEC championship title rather than beating the sister Toyota TS050 HYBRID with their No. 8 entry in the race. The No. 7, which had demonstrated superior pace for most of the race, was forced to cede the lead in the final hour due to a tire puncture that was incorrectly diagnosed due to a faulty sensor.
“Somehow, it was a difficult race,” said Buemi who shared the winning car with Alonso and Kazuki Nakajima. “We entered it knowing that we could also lose the championship, so somehow, I drove the entire race thinking, ‘Let’s try to increase the pace to fight with car No. 7.’ After five laps, we realized it would be nearly impossible. Somehow in the race, we became better but they were the quickest during the entire race. I was really happy to finish second (ultimately) but what happened to them is really hard. When it (mechanical issues) happened to me and Kazuki in ’16, it was really hard too. I am really sorry for them. It’s motorsport.
“It was a tough race with 61 cars in the end. It’s tough with the presence of a few amateurs. You don’t want to damage your car and you want to be at the front. With car No. 7, you really had to push hard. I am happy we did not do any mistakes and that the race chose us today.”
Alonso, too, focused more on the satisfaction of adding another world championship to his portfolio rather than a second Le Mans win, admitting, “No. 7 was quicker than us for 24 hours. They really deserved the victory, but today the luck decided that we had the better trophy.”
While their second-place result was another Le Mans disappointment for the team of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez, they did their best to share in the collective triumph.
“I first want to congratulate car No. 8. They did a fantastic season. They pushed us to our limits and we became better thanks to them,” said Lopez. “It’s a tough and cruel race. History shows this.
“I can’t really say what happened at the end of the race. What I know is that we had kept a new set of tires for the end to make it safer. I was taking care and being cautious when taking curves. After half a lap, I had a message saying I had a puncture so I came in. We changed one tire yet I still had a puncture! Pressure was very low so I could not go any faster than 100 kph, which is slow on a 13k track! I pushed as hard as I could but it was too late to come back.
“I am really proud of my teammates. Nothing could help us get better right now except maybe if car No. 8 (drivers) gave us their Rolex! Only maybe….”