TOYOTA Racing: Le Mans 24 hours, eight-hour report
TOYOTA Racing suffered extreme high and lows in the opening eight hours of the 80th edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Nicolas Lapierre, driving the #7 TS030 HYBRID he shares with Alex Wurz and Kazuki Nakajima, fought a tremendous battle for the lead towards the end of the fifth hour, coming out on top of a titanic duel.
However, literally seconds later the #8 car was hit when lapping another car.
That sent him out of control and into a heavy impact with the tyre barriers at Mulsanne Corner, which comes at the end of the Mulsanne Straight when cars reach a top speed of more than 330km/h.
Thankfully, Anthony got out of his car on his own, although he was taken to the circuit medical centre suffering from shock and back pain. However, there were no signs of any injuries and he was walking and talking with no problems.
He has been taken to a local hospital for precautionary checks and has been visited by his team-mates, Stéphane Sarrazin and Sébastien Buemi. He will stay in hospital until Monday.
A safety car period followed and, when the green flags waved again, Kazuki fought hard for the lead. However he was also unlucky with lapped traffic and made contact with another car, causing a puncture and rear bodywork damage.
Soon after rejoining the race, a further pit stop was required to change the alternator. The team also took the chance to replace the rear brakes.
Alex took over driving after the delay, but suffered further trouble as the one-third point of the race loomed.
Yoshiaki Kinoshita, Team President: "Motorsport can be a rollercoaster of emotions and we experienced great joy to see Nicolas taking the lead of Le Mans, only for the shock of Anthony's accident. It was a huge relief to hear he is okay and a testament to the strength of the TS030 HYBRID monocoque. Unfortunately that triggered further problems for us as Kazuki was among lapped traffic at the restart and was unlucky to make contact. We've had further issues since then but we will keep fighting to get to the flag we don't give up."
TS030 HYBRID #7 (Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre, Kazuki Nakajima)
Hour 1 (Alex): 3rd (+44.655secs) / Hour 2 (Alex, Nicolas): 4th (+2mins 28.615secs) / Hour 3 (Nicolas): 2nd (+52.281secs) / Hour 4 (Nicolas): 3rd (+1min 19.629secs) / Hour 5 (Nicolas): 1st / Hour 6 (Nicolas, Kazuki): 2nd (+6.368secs) / Hour 7 (Kazuki): 19th (+8 laps) / Hour 8 (Kazuki): 46th (+25 laps)
Nicolas Lapierre: "First of all, I am relieved to know that Anthony is okay. I am disappointed to see the team lost one car. My stint went pretty well. We reduced the first part to a double stint with the tyres as I had a vibration on one. Then we made a triple stint to catch up. The track had more grip and the car was handling better and better. I was able to catch the leader and take the lead after a tough battle. We were setting a good pace and I think that leading the Le Mans 24 Hours shows the work done by the team since the beginning of the project. We will continue to push to gain the maximum experience from this race."
TS030 HYBRID #8 (Stéphane Sarrazin, Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi)
Hour 1 (Stéphane): 4th (+50.580secs) / Hour 2 (Stéphane, Sébastien): 5th (+2mins 42.705secs) / Hour 3 (Sébastien): 3rd (1min 9.200secs) / Hour 4 (Sébastien): 2nd (+1min 16.333secs) / Hour 5 (Sébastien, Anthony): 4th (+1 lap / Hour 6 (Anthony): retired (accident)
Sébastien Buemi: "We started very well. We lost a bit of time to the leaders but we still had good pace. I had a really good quadruple stint and was able to catch up. I was satisfied with my performance and we clearly showed that the car is quick. However, the most important thing at the moment is that Anthony is well. Unfortunately these kind of incidents happen in motor racing. It is a pity that car #8 is out of the race as I believe we could have continued fighting at the front."
Copyright-free photos will be available via the media section of www.toyotahybridracing.com, where registered users can also download the TOYOTA Racing media kit for the Le Mans 24 Hours.
About TOYOTA Racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship:
TOYOTA first competed in the FIA World Endurance Championship in 1983, marking the start of a long period of participation in endurance racing which included several editions of the Le Mans 24 Hours. TOYOTA cars have raced in 13 Le Mans 24 Hours races, with a total of 36 vehicles taking part. TOYOTA has finished on the podium three times, all second places. Including those results, it has finished in the top six a total of nine times. In qualifying, TOYOTA has four front-row starts to its name, including one pole position. For 2012, TOYOTA will return to endurance racing and the FIA World Endurance Championship as a full-time entrant with a hybrid LMP1 car, the TS030 HYBRID. The chassis has been designed and built by TOYOTA Motorsport GmbH (TMG), where the race team is based. TMG is the former home of TOYOTA's World Rally and Formula 1 works teams, and was responsible for design and operation of TOYOTA's TS020 (GT-One) Le Mans car in 1998-99. TMG now combines works motorsport participation with a new direction as a high-performance engineering services provider to third party companies, as well as the TOYOTA family. For more information, please visit www.toyotahybridracing.com and register for personal access to the media section. Follow the team on Twitter (@Toyota_Hybrid) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/toyotamotorsport).