Shortly before 1am local time we witnessed what appears to be the end of Toyota’s bid to win the Le Mans 24 Hours. The pole-sitter and long time race leading #7 TS050 and the #9 entries both suffering catastrophic race-ending failures.
By hour nine the #7 TS050 had extended its lead to over a minute from the second placed #1 Porsche 919 and the #9 TS050 had fallen a lap behind the leaders.
However, by hour 10 everything was about to change as the race restarted after a safety car period following a spin for the #66 Ford GT into the barriers at Indianapolis. As the safety car pulled into the pits, Kamui Kobayashi suffered a clutch failure and failed to get the #7 TS050 to racing speed.
With the car stuck in what looked like limp mode, the Japanese driver quickly lost the lead to the both the #1 Porsche and his teammates in the #9 Toyota. We watched in pain as he cruised slowly around the circuit in first gear, stopping between Mulsanne and Indianapolis as he tried everything to get the car moving again.
Clearly heartbroken, Kobayashi eventually pulled off the track for the last time at the Porsche Curves.
With the loss of the #7 car the Japanese manufacturer now placed it’s victory hopes on the second-placed #9 car. Just 10 minutes later Nicolas Lapierre and Simon Trummer in the #25 CEFC Manor came together at Dunlop causing a left rear puncture on the Toyota. As the Frenchman bravely attempted to return the car to the pits, the rear caught fire just as it entered the Mulsanne Straight.
The fire soon extinguished its self and Lapierre managed to get his stricken TS050 as far as the Porsche Curves, where the #7 was still being recovered, and was then forced to stop to recycle the car’s systems. Agonising moments passed until the car started moving again, towards the pitlane entrance where it finally ran out of power.
Although the #8 Toyota has now returned to the race, it is 30 laps down following the replacement of the front powertrain and so, barring a fairly major miracle, here endeth Toyota’s hopes of a 2017 Le Mans win.