TOYOTA GAZOO Racing closed in on midnight in the Le Mans 24 Hours running in seventh and eighth position for the third round of the World Endurance Championship.
As darkness fell on the Circuit de la Sarthe, the established pattern of the race for the TS040 HYBRIDs continued, with Kazuki Nakajima leading the #1 car’s recovery from earlier damage in eighth as Mike Conway kept the #2 in the hunt from seventh.
Kazuki had taken over the #1 in ninth place from Anthony Davidson following the damage but he soon proved the repairs had been successful by catching then passing the #12 Rebellion for eighth.
That put the two TS040 HYBRIDs back into their starting grid order, although thanks to a consistent, trouble-free run for the #2, Mike was four laps ahead of the sister car he shares with Alex Wurz and Stéphane Sarrazin.
After three stints behind the wheel, Kazuki handed the #1 to Sébastien Buemi and, with a substantial gap to the cars immediately in front and behind him, his targets were to keep a consistent pace and avoid further dramas.
Their progress was interrupted late in the eighth hour by a safety car period while Mike’s solid three-stint effort came to an end in full darkness just before midnight. Alex took over in seventh, three laps off the lead.
TS040 HYBRID #1 (Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima)
Kazuki Nakajima: “I had a clean run which was the primary target. Considering the time we lost due to the incident, all we can do now is be consistent and try to avoid any further issues. I am satisfied with my first stint in the car. There is still two thirds of the race to go so a lot can happen.”
TS040 HYBRID #2 (Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway)
Mike Conway: “It was a tough first stint for me, getting used to the balance of the car and understanding what is needed in these conditions. It was quite difficult to see as the screen picks up oil and bugs; by the time you’re halfway through the stint it is challenging. I just tried to stay out of trouble and it worked pretty well.”