With 384 laps lodged in the 24 Hours of Le Mans live timing screen just like the winning No. 2 Porsche 919, many were wondering where the No. 5 Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050—the one that led much of the race only to encounter trouble in the final heartbreaking minutes—was on the podium. We can all blame Le Mans’ fittingly unforgiving rules for not allowing the No. 5 to at least claim second place.
The No. 5 Toyota had a thoroughly agonizing finish to this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, where the car came to a stop right after the finish line. The No. 5 was then passed by the No. 2 Porsche 919 to lose its lead as it struggled to restart for its final lap.
Because it took more than 11 minutes for driver Kazuki Nakajima to limp through the No. 5's final lap and the race regulations stipulate that a last lap must be under six minutes to count, the No. 5 Toyota went unclassified in the race results, per Daily Sportscar.
Despite completing three more laps than the next highest-running car, the No. 5 was ultimately bumped down to 45th on the live timing page. That was listed after every car that was able to complete a final, sub-six-minute lap.
They weren’t credited with a 45th place finish, though, as the official result as reported by the Toyota Gazoo Racing team was “not classified.”
Because it was a mechanical failure as opposed to an unavoidable act of God, Toyota’s inability to get in a valid final lap wasn’t forgiven under the available “force majeure” clause, and organizers opted not to classify them in the race results.
As much as I hate the technicality and hate how terrible it must have felt for the Toyota team, the goal of an endurance race is to build a car that will run the most laps as specified by the rules. So, it’s understandable why the organizers wouldn’t give a broken car a break.
Sure, Le Mans gave Peugeot a break in 2007, but that probably shouldn’t have happened, either. The Peugeot 908 had severe engine problems such that it opted to pull over and wait to cross the line after the checkered flag, but was classified as a finisher under force majeure, writes Daily Sportscar. To that note, the FIA and ACO need to be more consistent in their rulings as well.
Regardless, it’s all but impossible not to respect the crap out of Toyota for almost pulling off a major upset, though. They have the lowest budget of the three main manufacturer LMP1-class efforts, yet they were so close to winning it all with a car that had been (until the very end) more reliable and more fuel efficient than its competitors. Toyota had wisely been logging 14 laps between refueling stops, while the Porsche 919s had been stopping every 13 laps for fuel, saving Toyota vital time and helping their TS050s stay in the front.
As such, Le Mans had an outpouring of support for the almost-winning Toyota team, including from Porsche themselves.
Here’s a closer angle of Porsche giving the Toyota team a standing ovation after the race:
Class acts, all around. I can’t wait to see what they bring next year.