TOYOTA GAZOO Racing (TGR) entered the LEXUS LC and GR Supra*1 in the 47th edition of the 24 Hours of Nürburgring, which was held at Nürburgring in Germany from June 22 to 23, 2019. The GR Supra completed the race in 41st place overall and third in its class, with the LEXUS LC finishing in 54th place overall, and first in its class.
The qualifying sessions were held on June 20 and 21. Although this year's first qualifying session suffered a sudden thunderstorm, the weather cleared yet high temperatures brought on severe conditions for cars and drivers. The LEXUS LC aimed to participate in the “Top Qualifying”—which the LEXUS LC missed out on last year—while the GR Supra aimed to promote further development by competing with rivals. The LEXUS LC started in 35th place overall on the grid, unfortunately, with the GR Supra in 99th place overall.
On the grid, 158 cars lined up for the race, which started at 3:30 p.m. on June 22. Gamo was the starting driver for the LEXUS LC, and MORIZO, president of Toyota Motor Corporation, was the starting driver for the GR Supra.
The LEXUS LC, which started in the top group, continued running well and maintained a position of 30th overall. The GR Supra, which started at the end of same group, also made a good start and gradually raised its position. However, high temperatures caused the drivers to lose concentration and had a negative impact on the cars, resulting in multiple collisions across the course. The race became one of survival.
TGR, like the other competitors, also met with severe conditions. About eight hours after the start, oil leaked from the LEXUS LC transmission. Choosing to replace the transmission, the LEXUS LC was forced to take a pit stop for more than two hours. At the same time, the GR Supra, which was running well, made contact with the top car at that time. Fortunately, the GR Supra was able to continue driving, but the drivers remained anxious.
The next day, Sunday, June 23 is a day TGR will never forget. It was the day that Mr. Hiromu Naruse, the master driver of Toyota who co-launched "GAZOO Racing"—the origin of TGR—and MORIZO's driving teacher, passed away suddenly on the outskirts of Nürburgring, nine years ago.
This year's 24 Hours of Nürburgring, and June 23 in particular, became a special day for Toyoda and the team as running with the new Supra was Toyoda’s dearest wish.
Toyoda—who was vice president at the time—established GAZOO Racing with the goal of making “ever-better cars,” started his driver training at Nürburgring in 2001. The following year, production of the Supra was discontinued. For several years after that, Toyota did not release any sports cars, which many manufacturers use to test prototypes before they go on sale. For a long time, Toyoda and Toyota’s test drivers had to drive second-hand versions of the Supra, productions of which had already ceased; “At a place where other manufacturers are refining cars they will release to the world in a few years’ time, Toyota could only drive a second-hand Supra.” This was a source of great regret for Toyoda, and he determined one day to revive the Supra, refine it on the rigorous Nürburgring roads, before launching it into the world.
The GR Supra continued to run smoothly even after dawn as if there had been no accidents. After changing the transmission, the LEXUS LC continued to drive smoothly, and at 3:30 p.m., the GR Supra received a checkerboard at 41st overall (SP8T class 3rd) and the LEXUS LC 54th overall (SP-PRO class 1st).
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s 13th participation at the 24 Hours of Nürburgring has finished. However, the company will continue to refine both its people and its cars at Nürburgring, in pursuit of its goal of making “ever-better cars.”
*1 Name used for marketing and other promotional communications.
LEXUS LC Chief Mechanic: Toshiyuki Sekiya
We took measures to improve reliability this year since we stayed in the pit for a long time last year. However, although the cause was different this year, we had to stop the car again this year, and I am frustrated that more couldn’t be done. However, Nürburgring is always a tough race for us. Even if we test the car for 7,000 km without any trouble, we cannot predict every problem that comes our way. Again this year, Nürburgring taught us another tough lesson. But I am happy that we spent a lot of time with the mechanics and I witnessed a lot of growth and teamwork. Thank you.
GR Supra Chief Mechanic: Hideyuki Tanaka
For the GR Supra, the longest race we had experienced was just four hours, and I am happy that we completed 24 hours for the first time. Drivers, and many supporters helped us to accomplish it. In the end, I felt that I had done everything I could and my eyes were suddenly filled with tears. I am full of gratitude so want to thank everyone.
Akio Toyoda: Team General Representative
First of all, I’d like to thank everyone.
Today is a day of remembrance for Mr. Naruse's passing.
I drove my third stint from 10 o'clock today, but it was initially planned to be from 9 o'clock. I realized that it happened to be around the same time that Mr. Naruse suddenly passed away.
Many things came to mind when I was driving this third stint…entering the 13th year of competing in this race, with this car, the Supra, and so on. Yet to tell you the truth, I found it difficult to concentrate on driving.
I’d like to think Mr. Naruse is listening to us as we discuss all this now.
At the time of Mr. Naruse’s funeral, I resolved to stay on this path, alongside a handful of passionate people who wanted to continue doing this with me. Our GR activities have continued through the great support of these growing numbers of people, to bring us to this point today. And as a matter of fact, this event has taken a central place in our continued activity of making ever-better cars and developing human resources.
I want to thank all of you again for your support. I become teary when I share this story. “Why is this so?” I wondered in the car, and realized that the reason is most likely regret.
We started to enter this race with Mr. Naruse 13 years ago, but our team was really a ‘hand-made’ team. We could not even use the name ‘Toyota’. We didn’t have anyone cheering for us, and everyone always seemed to focus on the negative. We regretted that we practiced using a Supra that was no longer in production. All these regrets have served as my unwavering core since I took office as president on June 23, the same day that Mr. Naruse passed away.
So, since becoming president of this company, the reason I only continue to say, “Let’s make ever-better cars” is that it stems from all these regrets in my mind. Even today, I still feel regret and shed tears. And these regrets have been my strength, to create like-minded companions who share the same goal, to make ever-better cars. With this in mind, I said “Thank you very much” at the beginning of this speech.
I drove four stints, including the start and finish today, but I think Mr. Yabuki, who has been in charge of the development of the GR Supra, was the one who should have driven the car today. If today was not such a special day, I would have asked Mr. Yabuki to drive the Supra. However, I feel Mr. Naruse’s presence here with me today asking me, “Why don’t you drive the Supra together with me today at Nürburgring.”
I’m certain Mr. Naruse was beside us listening today. Also, I believe it might have been Mr. Naruse who brought us this nice weather.
Finally, I want to mention that as a driver I could not contribute as much as you expected of me, but all the professionals and teammates covered a lot to achieve this result. Thank you very much.
|35||1||TOYOTA GAZOO Racing||LEXUS LC||56||8:34.549|
|99||7||TOYOTA GR Supra||90||9:38.030|
|54||1||TOYOTA GAZOO Racing||LEXUS LC||56||133 Laps|
|41||3||TOYOTA GR Supra||90||137 Laps|
The results are as of CEST 4:00 p.m. on June 22, 2019
24 Hours of Nürburgring Endurance Race 2019: Team Organization
|Team||No.||Class||Vehicle||Specifications||Drivers||Chief Mechanic||Lead Engineer|
|Engine: 2UR-GSE modified
Drive system: rear-wheel drive
*1 Toyota Motor Europe employee
*2 Toyota Motor Corporation employee
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