2020 Le Mans: Nakajima, Buemi and Hartley win for Toyota

The #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing claimed a hat-trick of victories at the Le Mans 24 Hours, with Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley powering to a five-laps victory over their closest rivals.

It was a bittersweet result for the Japanese team, as the #7 car of Jose Maria Lopez, Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway which led for over half the distance, hit problems in the early hours of the morning. A 30-minute stop cost them a chance at victory and relegated them to third in the five-car LMP1 class.

All three winning drivers have had spells in Formula 1 with Buemi and Hartley driving for Toro Rosso and Nakajima with Williams.

Like Mercedes in Formula 1, the Toyotas are expected to deliver one-twos each time they race, such is their superiority as the only big factory team focussing on the top tier of WEC and Le Mans in this era.

Big kudos to Rebellion Racing who gave it a good shot but were never going to trouble the eventual winners on outright pace – Davids versus Goliaths springs to mind but, in this version, the little guys and their slingshots did not fell the giants.

The No.1 Rebellion R13 Gibson shared by Gustavo Menezes, Bruno Senna and Norman Nato came home in second place, five laps down on the winning Toyota which completed a total of 387 laps.

Rounding out the podium was the No. 7 Toyota TS050 HYBRID belonging to Jose-Maria Lopez, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi, which started today’s race in pole position. The trio led for the first 12 hours before the car spent 30 minutes in the pits getting the turbo replaced, dropping the team behind the sister No. 8 car.

Rebellion Racing’s second LMP1 entry finished fourth with Romain Dumas, Nathanaël Berthon and Louis Deletraz sharing driving duties in the No. 3 car which suffered intermittent clutch problems.

There was plenty of drama in the race’s closing hour when Deletraz hit the barriers at Indianapolis and had to come into the pits for a new front end. The incident also saw the team penalised by a 30 second time penalty. The Swiss team managed to repair the car and Deletraz successfully drove the car to the finish.

Elsewhere, Austrian squad ByKolles Racing retired in the race’s eighth hour. The No. 4 Enso CLM P1/01 was eight laps down due to an early alternator problem and encountered more problems when Bruno Spengler went off the track shortly after when the car lost its wing.

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In contrast to the poor LMP1 turnout, LMP2 was packed with great teams and big-name drivers doing battle with the likes of Oreca, Alpine, Aura and Ligier.

United Autosports’ Phil Hanson, Filipe Albuquerque and Paul Di Resta claimed its fourth successive LMP2 victory and first-ever Le Mans trophy after winning the LMP2 category at Le Mans today.

It marks the first-ever WEC title for a British privateer team and saw the Anglo squad secure enough points to ensure it has won the prestigious title with one round still remaining.

United Autosports eventually finished the race 32.831s ahead of runners-up No. 38 JOTA who were hot on the tails of the No. 22 car but were knocked out of winning contention when Anthony Davidson was forced to bring the car back to the pits for a last-minute splash-and-dash.

Last year’s Le Mans winners and overall category victors Signatech Alpine Elf finished third out of the WEC entrants (and fourth overall behind the No. 31 Panis Racing entry).  Signatech’s trio of drivers André Negrão, Pierre Ragues and Thomas Laurent did a superb job of fighting back after the No. 36 car spent significant time in the pits early in the race with water pressure problems.

Fourth out of the full-time WEC entrants (and seventh overall) was the Cool Racing entry shared by Nicolas Lapierre, Antonin Borga and Alexandre Coigny.  The Swiss-based squad had a relatively trouble-free race with the only real issue for the No. 42 car being a left rear puncture.

Italian team Cetilar Racing finished fifth out of the WEC entrants – and 10th in class – with the trio putting in a strong performance throughout the 24 hours including a closely-fought battle with the all-female line-up in the No. 50 Richard Mille Racing Team entry who eventually finished one spot ahead.

Elsewhere, the No. 29 Racing Team Nederland had a difficult race eventually finishing sixth in the WEC LMP2 class (and 15th overall). Early in the race, the Dutch squad had difficulties with the car’s engine overheating.

An impact with an LMGTE Pro car also left to problems with the car’s balance and later in the race the car lost significant time in the pitlane with a fractured oil pipe.

The No. 33 High-Class Racing entry retired a few hours into the race due to ongoing problems with the car’s gearbox.
Throughout the entire race, the 24-field category provided plenty of action including disqualification for early class leaders, No. 37 Jackie Chan DC Racing.

The car was black-flagged after the marshals declared the team had received outside assistance when the ORECA stopped out on track with Gabriel Aubry at the wheel.

LMGTE Pro

The British Union flags will be proudly flying high outside Aston Martin Racing’s factory as the team today recorded its best-ever 24 Hours of Le Mans results.

Victory in both the LMGTE Pro and GTE Am class could only have been improved upon if fans had been able to be present – sadly not possible this year due to the COVID health situation.

The 1st and 3rd places secured in LMGTE Pro secure Aston Martin its first FIA World Endurance GTE Manufacturers Championship.

The LMGTE Pro category provided non-stop action between Ferrari and Aston Martin throughout the entire 24 hours, this year’s race being the first ever to be held behind closed doors which did nothing to dampen the action on the track.

At the chequered flag it was the No.97 Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Alex Lynn, Maxime Martin and Harry Tincknell which took the winners’ laurels.  It was the second win for Martin/Lynn together after Spa 2019 last season and the 10th victory in the WEC for the No.97.  Tincknell celebrated victory on his debut for the manufacturer.

Last year’s Le Mans GTE Pro winners, Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado and Daniel Serra in the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo finished runners-up – 1m33s behind after 24 hours of hard racing. The trio gave it everything they had and led many laps thanks to different pit strategies, but the balance tipped towards Aston Martin for the 2020 edition.

Third in class was the No. 95 sister Aston Martin Vantage of Nicki Thiim, Marco Sørensen and Richard Westbrook which finished 3 laps behind after some early delays. The points keep them at the head of the FIA GTE World Drivers Championship, a title chase which will be settled in Bahrain.

Until the final lap fourth place was looking to have been assured for the No.71 AF Corse Ferrari of Davide Rigon, Miguel Molina and Ferrari returnee, Sam Bird, but an agonising gearbox failure on the final lap meant they did not take the chequered flag and were not therefore classified.  The No.82 Ferrari of Risi Competizione took 4th place.

Porsche GT Team had a race to forget with both cars unable to match the pace of the Aston Martins and Ferraris, and both suffering from power steering issues which delayed them in the pits and dropped them well back in the running order. The No.91 finished 5th and No.92 6th.

LMGTE Am

Aston Martin’s stellar day was crowned by the victory of customer team TF Sport in the Am category, the first podium for the marque in the category since 2014.

The No.90 Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Salih Yoluc, Charlie Eastwood and Jonny Adam finished 49s ahead of the No.77 Dempsey Proton Porsche after a flawless run throughout the race.

Factory driver Adam becomes the first Le Mans winner in both GTE classes in the WEC era, and Salih Yoluc becomes the first Turkish winner at Le Mans.

For a large part of the race, the TF Sport Aston Martin had had a close battle with the No.98 Aston Martin Racing car of Augusto Farfus, Ross Gunn and Paul Dalla Lana until that car encountered rear suspension trouble with eight hours to go.  Although out of contention, it recovered in the remaining hours to finish 8th in class.

The gap between the leaders and the rest of the GTE Am field was bigger until a safety car in the final hour – the fourth of the race – closed up the order.  When the race went green again the TF Sport secured its lead, but there was very close action behind for the remaining podium places.

Christian Ried, Riccardo Pera and Matt Campbell – who had fought back through the field through the night, took full advantage and hotshot Campbell took the No.77 Dempsey Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR to second place.

Third in class, just 3 seconds back, was the No.83 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE EVO of Francois Perrodo, Emmanuel Collard and Nicklas Nielsen. Fourth went to the No.56 Team Project 1 Porsche, the German team having had a less than smooth 24 Hours of Le Mans.

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2020 Le Mans 24 Hours Provisional Top Ten:

18 Hours Report:

LMP1

  • The No.8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid of Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley holds a 5-lap lead over the No.1 Rebellion Racing R13 Gibson.
  • Just after the 14th hour, the No.7 Toyota – having led for most of the first half of the race – was backed into the garage for a turbo replacement. After almost 30 minutes in the pits, it is back in the race in 4th place, 6 laps down to the leader.
  • Both Rebellion Racing entries are running strongly in 2nd and 3rd – the full season WEC entry of Bruno Senna, Norman Nato and Gustavo Menezes holding a one lap advantage.
  • Lap times have come down due to ideal ambient conditions and the continued dry conditions.

 

LMGTE Pro

  • The Aston Martin / Ferrari battle continues to play out, with the No.97 Vantage AMR battling hard with the No.51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE EVO throughout.
  • Alexander Lynn leads James Calado in the 2019 LM24 class winning entry by 32s after a recent brake pad and disc change on the Ferrari.
  • Aston Martin’s No.95 Dane train is in 3rd, and the No.71 Ferrari in 4th
  • The Porsche GT Team’s No.91 has suffered the same power steering issues as the No.92 911 RSR-19 and dropped back to 9 laps behind the class leader.
  • Sadly Job has dropped to 15th after such a good start to the race for the #32 crew. The team replaced a fractured oil line and Job is back out on track setting best lap times in his fight back.

LMP2

  • United Autosports continues to dominate the biggest class in the race, with the lead having changed several times between the team’s two entries.
  • Paul di Resta in the WEC’s No.22 is now 65s ahead of the No.38 JOTA ORECA 07 Gibson of Roberto Gonzalez.
  • Third in class is the No.26 G-Drive Racing Aurus 01-Gibson with Mikkel Jensen at the wheel.
  • Filipe Albuquerque in the No.22 completed a solid triple stint in the early hours of the morning, despite battling with blurred vision due to a windscreen covered in oil from the No.32 sister car.
  • Job van Uitert was forced to bring his No.32 into the pits at 06h19 because of the oil leak and the car lost 46 minutes on pitlane changing a fractured oil pipe.
  • Racing Team Nederland has had further delays following early engine overheating issues after a tangle with an LMGTE Pro car. They are back out on track but the balance of the car has been affected.
  • The 24-strong LMP2 entry is now down to 18.

LMGTE Am

  • TF Sport has had a faultless run to this point and has a firm hold on the lead in class. Salih Yoluc has a lead of over 2 minutes from the No.77 Dempsey Proton Racing entry of Christian Ried.
  • Third in class is the No.83 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE EVO of Emmanuel Collard.
  • Long-time contender for class victory, the No.98 Aston Martin Vantage AMR, has suffered a heart-breaking set back following suspension failure. Ross Gunn managed to limp the car back into the pits just before the start of the 16th hour for repairs, re-joining but now 6 laps down to the leader.

12 Hours Report:

As the 24 Hours of Le Mans passes the half-way mark and the drivers are now competing in full darkness, below are the main headlines following the first 12 hours of racing.

So far, there have been three safety car periods and eight retirements (out of a total 59 entries). Despite rain being forecast, the track has so far remained dry.

LMP1

  • No. 7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid has led the LMP1 field since the seventh hour with Japan’s Kamui Kobayashi now at the helm
  • The sister No. 8 car is one full lap behind after spending a lengthy stint in the pits for a full front right brake change just before the race’s seventh hour
  • Third and fourth place occupied by Rebellion Racing’s No. 3 and No.1 Rebellion R13 Gibson cars – the Swiss team not yet able to catch the Hybrid powered Toyotas
  • ByKolles Racing retired in the race’s eighth hour. The No. 4 Enso CLM P1/01 lost eight laps due to an early alternator problem, with further problems to follow when Bruno Spengler went off the track shortly after

LMGTE Pro

  • AF Corse Ferrari enjoying a closely-fought battle with LMGTE Pro title rivals Aston Martin Racing
  • The No. 51 Ferrari 488 GTE Evo of James Calado has a 6 second lead over the No. 97 Aston Martin Racing entry with Alex Lynn taking over from Harry Tincknell
  • No.71 Ferrari 488 GTE EVO was running third before a right-rear puncture in the 11th hour relegated the crew to sixth. Bird managed to get the car back to the pits where the AF Corse spent significant time repairing the rear of the car
  • The Porsche GT Team entries have had a difficult race so far with the No. 91 and No. 92 cars fifth and eight respectively. The No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR – 19 dropped to the bottom of the leaderboard after a stint in the pits fixing the car’s power steering

LMP2

  • WEC category leaders United Autosports dominate the LMP2 category, the No. 32 and No. 22 ORECA 07 Gibsons first and second in class
  • Will Owen in the No. 32 car currently 31s ahead of Paul Di Resta in the sister car
  • JOTA’s No. 38 entry round out the top three in LMP2 with Anthony Davidson at the wheel going into the race’s 13th hour
  • Early leaders Jackie Chan DC Racing encountered difficulties in seventh hour when the No. 37 ORECA driven by Gabriel Aubry ground to a halt coming out of Arnage. The car eventually returned to the pits where the team worked hard to repair the damage. However, the car was later disqualified by the stewards for having received outside assistance before returning to the pits.
  • No. 29 Racing Team Nederland continues to struggle with intermittent engine problems
  • No. 36 Signatech Alpine Elf entry continues to climb the leaderboard after early water pressure problems. The French squad are currently eighth overall, one spot ahead of the No. 42 Cool Racing entry.

LMGTE Am

  • Aston Martin Racing continues to lead the LMGTE Am category after a near-perfect performance from the No. 98 trio made up of Paul Dalla Lana, Ross Gunn and Agusto Farfus
  • Just 1s behind is the No.90 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage – both cars enjoying an extremely close battle for the top spot
  • Third in class is the No. 83 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo now with Emmanuel Collard at the wheel
  • No.56 Team Project 1 Porsche 911 still in close podium contention with Egidio Perfetti driving going into the 13th hour
  • No. 55 Spirit of Race and No. 52 AF Corse entries have both retired from the race

6 Hours Report

he 2020 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans had settled into a steady rhythm until the first Safety Car of the race was brought out at 20h14, closing up the field and offering opportunities for revised strategies. Changes could still be ahead as night falls and the potential for rain showers remains.

LMP1

  • LMP1 category now led by the No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, driver Kazuki Nakajima capitalising on a safety car late in the fifth hour to move ahead of the No. 7 sister car
  • Pole-sitting No. 7 sister car second with Jose Maria Lopez at the wheel
  • No. 8 car lost time in the early hours with a puncture and later a brake duct cooling problem
  • Third and fourth place occupied by Rebellion Racing’s No. 1 and No. 3 Rebellion R13 Gibson cars – the Swiss team not matching the pace of the Hybrid powered Toyotas
  • ByKolles Racing fifth out of the LMP1 entries, the squad hampered by an alternator problem in the race’s third hour and returning to the track eight laps down

LMGTE Pro

  • Reigning GTE Pro Le Mans champions, AF Corse Ferrari, hold first and second places in class after a race-long battle with the two Aston Martin Racing entries
  • No.71 Ferrari 488 GTE EVO of Davide Rigon has a 1s lead over the No. 51 sister car of James Calado, the Briton having made a strong start to take the lead from the pole-sitting No.91 Porsche
  • Aston Martin’s No.97 leads No.95, with both cars having challenged for the lead through the race
  • The Porsche GT Team entries have struggled so far to maintain the same pace at its WEC rivals. No.91 of Gianmaria Bruni is currently fifth in class, behind the Risi Competizione Ferrari
  • No.92 Porsche 911 RSR-19 lost 11 laps in the pits due to a power steering issue but is now back on track.

LMP2

  • The No. 37 Jackie Chan DC Racing heads the highly-competitive LMP2 field after Will Stevens and Ho-Pin Tung both made excellent progress during their stints before handing over to Gabriel Aubry in the race’s fifth hour
  • No. 26 G-Drive Racing and No. 32 United Autosports entries second and third respectively
  • Second out of the eight LMP2 WEC entrants is the No. 38 JOTA entry now with Anthony Davidson at the wheel of the ORECA 07 Gibson equipped with Goodyear tyres
  • No. 33 High Class Racing was second after the opening stages, later dropping to 23rd in class with gearbox issues
  • No. 29 Racing Team Nederland back of the field after losing time with an over-heating engine and sits 20th
  • No. 36 Signatech Alpine Elf entry, which was forced to make an early pit stop due to loss of water pressure, is climbing back up the leaderboard and is currently placed 14th

LMGTE Am

  • Aston Martin Racing has had a perfect first quarter of the 24-hour race, with the No. 98 factory car currently in the lead of the class
  • Just 1.4s behind is the No.90 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage – both cars having had a trouble free race so far
    In the mix until a drive through penalty for a Slow Zone infringement was the No.56 Team Project 1 Porsche 911
  • Ferraris hold third, fourth and fifth in the class, with the best of the WEC runners in this group being the No.83 AF Corse entry of Francois Perrodo.
  • The only Safety Car period of the race came just before the end of the first quarter when the No.52 AF Corse Ferrari of Alexander West impacted the wall at the Porsche Curves.
  • Since the field has been following the SC, night has fallen and there will be all to play for when the race goes green again