In the space of just a few minutes, Toyota Gazoo Racing went from elation to despair as it watched the No. 5 Toyota TS050 Hybrid lose the 24 Hours of Le Mans at the final hurdle.
Kazuki Nakajima was in the leading car at the time, when a turbo issue slowed the LMP1 contender with 23 hours, 55 minutes of the race completed, taking what was set to be a sure win from Nakajima and co-drivers Sebastien Buemi and Anthony Davidson.
“We had a fantastic race and in the last few minutes it was very difficult to accept what had happened,” Buemi said. “We investigated everything and we took some measures to make sure it will not happen again.
“When you know how hard it is to get in that position, to be in the fight to win Le Mans, and you lose it at the last lap, it’s difficult to accept. We cannot do anything [about it]; we just have to move on.”
It was an unexpected fault, and Buemi admitted that he was fully expecting to take the win in the moments before the issue.
“The initial feeling was to see if we could do something to solve the problem,” he said. “We had a 90-second advantage so we had one and a half minutes to think about the solution, but we didn’t find anything because of the problem.
“It’s a part that unglued itself so until it was properly glued there was nothing we could do. It happened in a split second and that was it.
“It was all going smoothly to the point that they told Kazuki not to push. All of a sudden it happened, with no sign.”
For Buemi however, as disappointing as the last five minutes of Le Mans were, the rest of the season is looking positive.
“Clearly we were a lot more competitive at Le Mans where you need a lot less downforce, but at Silverstone we were less so,” he said.
Even though Toyota has joined Audi and Porsche in using its third and final aero kit this weekend for the Six Hours of Nürburgring, with a new ultra-high downforce setup, Buemi still doesn’t think it will be enough to put him back at the top of the podium.
“Here it will be a bit difficult for us because [although] we have a ultra-high downforce car it’s maybe not enough,” he said.
“It could be that we’re a little bit behind here but for the rest of the races we should be better. This track requires maximum downforce, and maybe we don’t have enough. If it rains it might be a little bit worse.”
It looks as if the Toyota will be faster at some of the lower downforce tracks coming up in the season, including Mexico City, Fuji, and Bahrain.
“Even if we’re not so competitive here, we should be in good form for the rest of the year,” Buemi said.