2016-2020 Finally Victory in the 20th Attempt! First win for a Japanese car and driver

2016-2020
Finally Victory in the 20th Attempt! First win for a Japanese car and driver

In the 2016 Le Mans race, two Toyota TS050 HYBRID cars and one Porsche were still running in the lead on the same lap at 21 hours into the race. With one hour left in the race the Toyota car No. 5 in first place had a 30-sec. lead over the Porsche in 2nd. A sudden pit stop by the Porsche with three laps remaining increased that lead for the TS050 HYBRID, and it look like it was finally the certain winner. But, with just five minutes left in the racecar No. 5 began to slow down. Then, on the final straight before entering the last lap it came to a stop. The Porsche took the win and the No. 6 Toyota ended the race in 2nd place.

In 2017, Toyota was back in Le Mans with three TS050 HYBRID cars. Kamui Kobayashi took pole position in the qualifying with a course record, and that same car No. 7 took the lead as the race started. Toyota's cars No. 8 and No. 9 were also among the leaders. But, 8 hours into the race, car No. 8 developed trouble in its front motor. After leading the race for 10 hours, car No. 7 came to a stop in the night with clutch trouble. Then car No. 9 suffered a collision with another car and had to retire from the race. After two hours of repairs, car No. 8 was the only Toyota to finish the race, taking 8th place.

In 2018, while there were no other hybrid competitors from other makes, the rival non-hybrid cars had gained an advantage through regulation changes. This year's TS050 HYBRID had managed to make a big reduction in fuel consumption while maintaining the same speed level. As a result, two of the Toyota hybrids were able the take the top two places in the qualifying. It was the second pole position for Kazuki Nakajima. The two Toyotas starting from the front row of the grid were able to hold the lead in the race, although with that lead changing hands between them at times. They went on that way to take the checkered flag, with the long-awaited first Le Mans victory for Toyota going to car No. 8. Diving with teammates Sebastien Buemi and Fernando Alonso, Nakajima became the first Japanese Le Mans winner in a Japanese car.

Again in 2019, it was non-hybrid cars that were the toughest competition for Toyota. Still the TS050 HYBRID cars finished 1-2 again in the qualifying and went on to dominate the race. For Toyota, it was the second 1-2 finish in a row. Nakajima and his teammates Buemi and Alonso of the winning No. 8 car were named the 2018-2019 WEC series Drivers champions. Nakajima thus became the first Japanese world champion for a circuit race series.

With new technical regulations to be introduced for the following season, the 2020 model would be the last TS050 HYBRID to race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The time advantage over the non-hybrid rivals was now almost nil, and although Kobayashi in car No. 7 was able to give Toyota its fourth consecutive pole position at Le Mans, car No. 8 could only manage 3rd position in the qualifying. In the race, car No. 7 dominated the first half, but it developed exhaust system trouble just past 12 hours into the race. That trouble took 30 minutes to repair, a big set-back. Meanwhile, car No. 8 fell behind in the first half of the race due to a tire puncture and other troubles, but it managed to battle back to 2nd position by mid-race. And when No. 8 found itself in the lead due to No. 7's big delay for repairs, it was able to hold that leading position and claim the crowning glory of the day. Car No. 7 finished 3rd. Car No. 8's Buemi and Nakajima won their third consecutive Le Mans race and brought Toyota the WEC 2019-2020 season's Team championship title.

  • 2016 TOYOTA TS050 HYBRID(A.Davidson/S.Buemi/K.Nakajima)
  • 2016 TOYOTA TS050 HYBRID(S.Sarrazin/M.Conway/K.Kobayashi)
  • 2017 TOYOTA TS050 HYBRID(M.Conway/K.Kobayashi/J.M. Lopez)
  • 2017 TOYOTA TS050 HYBRID(S.Buemi/A.Davidson/K.Nakajima)
  • 2017 TOYOTA TS050 HYBRID(S.Sarrazin/Y.Kunimoto/N.Lapierre)
  • 2018 TOYOTA TS050 HYBRID(M.Conway/K.Kobayashi/J.M. Lopez)
  • 2018 TOYOTA TS050 HYBRID(S.Buemi/K.Nakajima/F.Alonso)
  • 2019 TOYOTA TS050 HYBRID(M.Conway/K.Kobayashi/J.M. Lopez)
  • 2019 TOYOTA TS050 HYBRID(S.Buemi/K.Nakajima/F.Alonso)
  • 2020 TOYOTA TS050 HYBRID(M.Conway/K.Kobayashi/J.M. Lopez)
  • 2020 TOYOTA TS050 HYBRID(S.Buemi/K.Nakajima/B.Hartley)