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When Toyota came to Le Mans ten years ago, they did so with a big dream: Beat Audi and Porsche to claim the second-ever overall win in the race for a Japanese manufacturer. Audi dropped out shortly afterward and their one shot to beat Porsche in a heads-up race ended with a failure on the final lap of the 2016 event, but Toyota’s ambitions were realized when their TS050s were the last factory cars left racing in 2018. In the four races that followed, the manufacturer has found itself in a position where anything less than a win would be a shocking disappointment. Five years later, they have not let that expectation down yet.
Toyota had just one problem over 48 combined hours of running for their two GR010 Hypercars today. The No. 7, which had repeatedly caught the No. 8 after losing ground on track in the earlier hours of the race, had a hybrid drive failure on track early this morning. The car reset twice and lost about a lap, but it did not derail the inevitable. With no other problems, the company completed a dominant 1-2 finish led by the No. 8 GR010 of Sebastien Buemi, Ryo Hirakawa, and Brendon Hartley. The No. 8 GR010 finished second, while the no. 709 Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus SCG 007 finished a distant third.
LMP2, which boasted 27 entries in a mostly-spec class where 26 teams opted for the same Oreca chassis, surprised by not being any more competitive than the overall battle. The No. 38 JOTA entry got off to a strong start thanks to great stints by Antonio Felix da Costa and Will Stevens, building a gap that Roberto Gonzalez was able to comfortably hold. The trio was up by nearly a lap all race long, eventually beating out the debuting No. 9 Prema entry. The No. 28 JOTA car completed the class podium. Notably, the No. 5 Team Penske car being used as prep for that team’s upcoming factory tie-up with Porsche in Hypercar finished fifth.
GTE Pro, a class disappearing next year as both Porsche and Ferrari move on to Hypercar programs, looked at different times like it could end with a three-car battle for the race win. That came to an end early this morning, when the class-leading No. 64 Corvette C8.R was punted into a wall on the Mulsanne straight. That left a battle between the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE and No. 91 factory Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, one that was nose-to-tail during the race’s only safety car. The No. 91 Porsche ultimately pulled away, securing victory for their trio of Gianmaria Bruni, Frederic Makowiecki, and Richard Lietz. The No. 52 Ferrari completed the class podium after the No. 92 Porsche and No. 63 Corvette fell apart on the track earlier in the race.
GTE Am seemed to be the closest battle in the field for much of the race, but the No. 33 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage GTE of Ben Keating, Henrique Chaves, and Marco Sorenson eventually pulled away from the No. 79 WeatherTech Porsche. The No. 98 Northwest AMR Aston martin completed the class podium.
The end of this year’s 24 hour classic also marks the end of Toyota’s long era as the only factory in Le Mans-spec sports car racing. The Peugeot 9X8 debuts at the next FIA World Endurance Championship race in Monza, then all of Porsche, Cadillac, and Ferrari join the grid to start the 2023 season. The new golden age of sports car racing is almost here.
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