2016 24 Hours of LeMans: Heartbreaking Defeat for Toyota, Surprise Victory for Porsche

The original purpose of the 24 Hours of LeMans was to test the reliability of cars, not necessarily their speed.  Which is why LeMans is the race where you win based on distance traveled in 24 hours. The reason why the race takes place on public roads? Because the surface of racetracks are too well-kept to test real-world reliability.

Toyota learned the lessons of reliability within sight of the finish line, unexpectedly and horrifically opening the door to victory for the Porsche Motorsports team.  Take a look at the video above.  I watched the the moment on TV.  The faces on the members of the Toyota Gazoo team were haunting.  In a few seconds, they went from victory to defeat.  The P2, though hard fought, probably feels like they came in last.

A connector failure on the #6 Toyota Gazoo racer caused a loss of turbo charger control.  The car literally stopped on its final lap.  Driver Kamui Kobayashi and team found a way to bypass the bad connector, restoring power.  But the damage was done. The Toyota #6 limped home in P45. Fortunately the #5, long in the fight for a podium was in position to finish in P2.

The #5 had its own problems, ducking into the pit for body repair after making contact with a lapped car.  The stop cost them 9 minutes, after which they re-entered the race in third place.

Think about that.  Their lead was so substantial over the rest of the LMP1 field that a 9-minute pit left them in third place.  Audi, was the surprise Show, finishing P3.

Overall, the Gazoo racers traded the lead with the Porsches. This was not expected.  The Gazoos were expected to be competitive, but not on the podium.  Absent the mechanical failure, the podium would have been Toyota/Porsche/Toyota.



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Cover of HECN 2016 LeMans Recap, "3 Stories of LeMans 2016"

Want to see more of the 2016 24 Hours of LeMans?  More pictures, video and a short history of the Circuit de la Sarthe?  Then download a free iBook or pdf of “3 Stories of LeMans 2016, our 22-page document.  We’ve got over 50 images and a video recap of this year’s race.

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Sebastian James

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