Nakajima/Buemi/Hartley seal Le Mans hat-trick for #8 Toyota
By James Pavey
Sunday 20th September, 2020 - 11:25pm
Toyota has claimed another dominant 24 Hours of Le Mans victory, with Kazuki Nakajima, Sebastien Buemi and Brendon Hartley steering the #8 TS050 Hybrid to a third consecutive win at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
The #8 romped to a five-lap victory in the 88th running of the classic race despite Buemi being forced to pit towards the end of the first hour with a suspected tyre puncture, before it was later pushed into the garage with a brake issue.
As the clock turned over to 14:30 on Sunday, it was Nakajima who had the honour of taking the chequered flag, with the privateer #1 Rebellion of Norman Nato, Gustavo Menezes and Bruno Senna splitting the two Toyotas.
After leading the first stanza, the Hyperpole-winning #7 Toyota of Jose Maria Lopez, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi managed to recover to the podium despite a mid-race 30-minute turbo repair and floor damage, with the #3 Rebellion the final LMP1 runner home in fourth.
A dramatic final hour saw front-runners across all classes strike trouble, with a late Safety Car formalising the overall win for the #8 Toyota.
Louis Deletraz held the final podium place for much of the race’s second half in the #3 R13-Gibson before he went off and clipped the wall at Indianapolis.
The Swiss driver reported to pit lane for a new nose, but the car failed to fire up after the stop was completed. The car was sent into the garage for clutch repairs and returned to the track in fourth place, the position it would hold to the end.
The dramas weren’t isolated to LMP1, with the final hour seeing the LMP2 fight turned on its head.
Philip Hanson led LMP2 in the class Hyperpole-winning #22 United Autosports Oreca he shared with Filipe Albuquerque and Paul di Resta. With little under an hour remaining, third-placed Jean-Eric Vergne (#36 G-Drive Racing Oreca) suffered a front-right suspension failure at Indianapolis, and the Frenchman was forced into the lane.
That elevated the #31 Panis Racing Oreca of Matthieu Vaxiviere, Julien Canal and Nico Jamin to third behind the #38 Jota Sports Oreca with Anthony Davidson at the wheel.
A slow zone was called when Lucas Legeret crashed the #99 Dempsey-Proton LMGTE Am Porsche. Once the barriers were repaired, the race went green with 40 minutes remaining, only for the Safety Car to be deployed a fourth time after Australian James Allen crashed the #39 SO24-HAS By Graff Oreca heavily at Porsche Curves.
The Safety Car returned to the lane with 24 minutes remaining, and the minor placings in LMGTE Am went up for grabs as Australian Matt Campbell (#77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche) slotted into second behind runaway leader Charlie Eastwood (#90 TF Sport Aston Martin).
Matteo Cairoli (#56 Team Project 1 Porsche) was dropped off the podium by Campbell and Nicklas Nielsen (#83 AF Corse Ferrari). The battle for the podium was intensifying all the time, all cars at one stage missing the final chicane.
With nine minutes remaining, Hanson’s lead LMP2 entry was called into the lane for a splash of fuel. When Hanson returned to the circuit, the gap between the #22 and the #38 had been slashed to six seconds.
However, United Autosports’ nerves were quelled once Davidson was called in on the next lap for a fuel stop, handing the LMP2 victory to the #22 crew.
Aston Martin Racing made it a one-three in LMGTE Pro, with the #97 (Alex Lynn/Maxime Martin/Harry Tincknell) claiming class honours ahead of the #51 AF Corse Ferrari (James Calado/Alessandro Pier Guidi/Daniel Serra) and #95 Aston (Marco Sorensen/Nicki Thiim/Richard Westbrook).
Eastwood crossed the line to take LMGTE Am honours alongside Jonathan Adam and Salih Yoluc in the #90 TF Sport Aston.
Campbell, sharing with Riccardo Pera and Christian Ried, finished second ahead of the #83 of Nielsen, Emmanuel Collard and Francois Perrodo.
CLICK HERE for full classification.
CLICK HERE for class classification.