How Close Did Toyota Come To Winning Le Mans?

Toyota had remarkable pace at this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans, but one mysterious retirement lost them the lead and the race. What's almost heartbreaking is how close Toyota came to beating the problem.

Autosport described the whole incident in its report, "The story of an old-school Le Mans," one where the sturdiest, most reliable car won, not the outright fastest.

It's clear that Toyota lost their chance on their #8 car after it crashed early in the race, though by the end of the 24 it had clawed back much of its time lost in the pits.

They give a full account of what happened to the 1000 horsepower Toyota TS040 as it led the field through the night.

The failure was a freak one: the car encountered an issue with the wiring loom of one of its scrutineering systems, and the team was aware of it and had just called in Nakajima.

"We knew what it was, we had called Kazuki in, the mechanics were ready to change it and it would have taken two or three minutes to solve - it would have been a really quick pitstop," explained Vasselon.

"But unfortunately the loom melted before the car could get back to the pits.

"We cannot say it was bad luck, because a problem is a problem. The bad luck was that we couldn't get the car back to the pits."

Not only was the problem not with a Toyota part, but with an FIA-mandated piece of monitoring equipment, Toyota recognized the problem and was in the process of bringing their leading car in. Had the #7 Toyota just limped a few miles more, the race would have been theirs to lose.

How Close Did Toyota Come To Winning Le Mans?

This is sadly typical for Toyota. Back in 1999 they were reeling in the slow, leading BMW V12 LMR, just a single lap ahead in waning moments of the race. The Toyota GT-One cranked out the fastest lap of the race, sure to catch the BMW, and then blew a tire. Speedhunters has an excellent full recap of that race I encourage you to read in part one right here and part two right here.

All this being said, it's quite possible that Toyota deserved their FIA wiring failure. Toyota was running an extremely cheaty rear wing, which stalled at high speed and gave them a performance advantage against the rules, as the excellent Le Mans tech site Mulsanne's Corner states.

I myself like to root for the rule benders and dynasty-breakers, so I'm bummed that Toyota couldn't clinch a win in the toughest sports car race of the year. Knowing how close they were to fixing their problem only makes things worse.

How Close Did Toyota Come To Winning Le Mans?

Photo Credits: Toyota