The History of TOYOTA at Le Mans
Looking back over a long history of unending challenges
One step away from victory. TS010 finally gets a podium
Since the FIA issued the technical regulations for the sportscar prototype in 1982, many carmakers around the world took an interest in the Group C class, and this sparked enthusiasm for races like the 24 Hours of Le Mans and others in countries around the globe, including in Japan. However, when the FIA changed the technical regulation in 1991 to allow only cars with naturally aspirated 3.5ℓ engines, carmakers dropped out of the class one after another, and there was a big drop in the number of entries in the world's pinnacle Sportscar World Championship (SWC) as well. This led to the end of the championship series after the 1992 season. After having withdrawn for the series in 1991, Toyota entered the SWC series in 1992 with its TS010 mounting a V10 engine. After winning the opening round at Monza, hopes were high for a long-awaited win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. However, of the three TS010 cars Toyota entered Le Mans with, a 2nd place by one of them driven by Masanori Sekiya and others was the best finish. But now, Toyota was truly only one step away from victory.
With no other planned races on its 1993 schedule for the TS010, Toyota could focus purely on the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The race turned into a one-on-one duel for victory with the Peugeot entered under the same conditions as Toyota's TS010. In this duel, Toyota was rumored by most to hold the advantage, but one stroke of bad luck after another eventually held back all three TS010 cars, and in the end their best was a 4th-place finish. Meanwhile, privateers running with older specification Toyota 92C-V cars performed well and finished in 5th and 9th place.
Then the scene changed from Group C cars to the new era of GT cars. Although Group C cars were still allowed to enter the 1994 Le Mans race, they were greatly encumbered by things like weight and fuel tank volume. Two Toyota 94C-V cars geared up to the new regulation from the 92C-V were entered in the race by privateers and ran well. One of these cars entered by SARD ran in the lead until dawn, but about one hour before the finish it developed shift linkage trouble and came to a stop, but it was able to restart and make it to the checkered flag. Just short of victory, this trouble caused it to finish in 2nd place.