The No. 9 Toyota TS050 was the lone Toyota that hadn’t had a lengthy repair still on track as the team’s dominant No. 7 ground to a halt on track. Sadly, a puncture that badly damaged the rear of the No. 9, forcing it to retire less than an hour after the No. 7.
The No. 9 suffered a puncture as a result of contact, per a tweet made by the team. Commentators speculated that driver Nicolas Lapierre tried to drive back to the pits a bit too fast for the amount of damage sustained in the puncture, which resulted in further damage, including the car catching on fire as it tried to drive back into the pits.
The fire eventually blew itself out as the car moved, but sadly, the car’s hydraulic system was among the damaged items, which made it hard for the car to keep moving as normal. Lapierre stopped to cycle through some of the car’s systems and was able to restart it, but ground to a halt later a mere 250 yards away from the pit entrance.
If he was able to make it to the pit lane entrance, the Toyota team could push the No. 7 into their garage for repairs. But he couldn’t get it going, and the car lacked enough electric power to bypass the damaged hydraulics and move on hybrid power only. Lapierre had no choice but to shut the car down and walk back to the pits.
Toyota’s only car left is the No. 8, which lost a lot of time to a lengthy hybrid system repair earlier in the race. Their rivals, the Porsche 919 team, had a similar failure to their No. 2 car, only theirs was earlier in the race, allowing it more time to climb back into contention. The only LMP1 now left on the lead lap is the No. 1 Porsche 919.
Of course, we’re not even halfway done with the race, so who knows what will happen from here.
UPDATE: A team representative confirmed that the car that made contact with the No. 9 car was the No. 25 CEFC Manor TRS Racing car.