24 Hours of Le Mans: never two without three

Toyota will have largely dominated the 2020 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but encountered problems halfway through the race with the car finally finishing third. The second place goes to the Rebellion of Norman Nato, Bruno Senna and Gustavo Menezes, five laps away, ahead of the other Toyota of Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez. This “hat-trick” allows him to keep the trophy given to the winner, which can be displayed in the group’s factory in Japan.

Last race at Le Mans for the Toyota TS050

It is also the third victory at Le Mans for the Swiss Sébastien Buemi and the Japanese Kazuki Nakajima and the second for the New Zealander Brendon Hartley. “We thought that everything was against us at the start, but in the end we finished with five laps in advance,” said Buemi. His car had experienced brake problems in the early hours of the event, forcing him to let the sister car slip away. Brendon Hartley said the atmosphere was “not quite the same without the fans”, but that winning Le Mans a second time was “a wonderful feeling”. “It was special to drive the car for its last victory at Le Mans,” said Kazuki Nakajima. “It looks like we were a little luckier than the other car. »This 88e The edition took place behind closed doors because of the coronavirus pandemic and took place exceptionally in September after seeing its traditional June date postponed for the same reason.

In principle, Toyota will not participate in the next edition of the legendary endurance test in 2021 with its TS050 hybrid, preparing for the arrival of the new category of “hypercars” from 2022. Buemi and Nakajima had won in 2018 and 2019 with Fernando Alonso, the double Formula 1 world champion. But the Spaniard has decided to skip the Le Mans event this year to prepare for his return to Formula 1 next year with Renault. He was replaced by Brendon Hartley, already winner at Le Mans in 2017 with Porsche.

Disappointment for Kobayashi

Starting from pole position on Saturday, the No. 7 of Conway, Kobayashi and Lopez led until the middle of the race, before having to change his faulty turbo. Kamui Kobayashi’s crestfallen face as he got out of his car after driving it back to the pit in the middle of the night spoke volumes about the Japanese driver’s disappointment. Already three times second in 2019, 2018 and 2016 (well 2016), “Koba”, a former Formula 1 driver, fully intended to take his revenge this year and climb to the top step of the podium. The Japanese manufacturer started off as a favorite for a third consecutive victory. But its superiority on paper was called into question by the balance of performance (BoP) which reduced its advantage over the Rebellion, a private Swiss team that last competed in the 24 Hours.

Aston Martin wins in GTE

In the other categories, the No. 22 Oreca of the United Autosports team piloted by Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Philip Hanson, won in LMP2. This team belongs to the American Zak Brown, also owner of the F1 McLaren team. In Grand Touring, the Aston Martins took the victory both among professional drivers (LM GTE PRO) and among amateurs (LM GTE AM).

While waiting for the hypercars

This 88e edition did not offer an exceptional field with only five cars entered in the premier LMP1 category, including the Toyota and the Rebellion. But the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), the organizer of the 24 Hours, is looking to the future with new categories, LMH hypercars from 2021 with a new Toyota and the American Glickenhaus, which will themselves be joined by a Peugeot the following year. The 2022 edition should also see the unloading of the Le Mans Daytona hybrid LMDh prototypes meeting common regulations with the American IMSA championship, and determining a technical sheet that is less expensive than hypercars, and therefore likely to attract new competitors. Finally, Alpine will also try its luck in 2021 in the current premier class LMP1 NH (for non-hybrid).

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