Toyota: 29 years and no Le Mans victory

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After a disappointing start to the 2015 WEC season, Toyota is still looking to record its first success of the year. The team will be giving everything to stand on the top step of the podium this weekend. But to do so they will have to break a Le Mans curse that goes back almost 30 years.

This year’s Le Mans 24 Hours marks a special milestone for Toyota. The team is set to take part at the great race for the 17th time in 30 years. But Toyota’s Le Mans history is tained by failure and simple bad luck. Four times Toyota have finished second (1992, 1994, 1999 and 2013), but never has the flag of the rising sun flattered highest above the podium. What are Toyota’s chances of recording a long-awaited Le Mans victory in 2015?

The reigning world champions’ TS040 Hybrid has a brand-new aerodynamic kit for Le Mans, with the updated bodywork allowing the LMP1 car to reach speed of up to 330 kph. The main differences can be found on the rear wing and at the front end.

The #1 car will be piloted by world champions Anthony Davidson and Sébastien Buemi, together with last year’s polesitted Kazuki Nakajima. The Japanese driver has been declared fit to race after a serious shunt at the last round of the WEC at Spa-Francorchamps. His father, Satoru, raced for Toyota at their Le Mans début 30 years ago and finished twelve with Kaoru Hoshino and Masanori Sekiya.

The #2 car will be driven by two-times Le Mans victor Alexander Wurz, three-time polesitter Stéphane Sarrazin and LMP1 newcomer Mike Conway. So far this season the best result for the #2 car has been fourth position at Silverstone. Round 2 of the WEC at Spa-Francorchamps was anything but a success for Toyota, with both cars struggling for pace in what is largely considered a good warm-up for Le Mans. Toyota finished fifth and eighth, laps down on their competitors.

Toyota will have to put in a shift if they are to record a much-desired Le Mans victory. They will certainly have to up their performance if they are to have any chance of lifting a trophy, especially against their strong LMP1 rivals.

Toyota’s results at Le Mans over the past 29 years:

1985 #36 (85C-L): Qualifying: P29; Race: P12. #38 (85C-L): Qualifying: P22; Race: Retired (technical problem).
1986 #36 (86C-L): Qualifying: P40; Race: Retired (technical problem). #38 (86C-L): Qualifying: P30; Race: P20.
1987 #36 (87C-L): Qualifying: P14; Race: Retired (technical problem). #37 (87C-L): Qualifying: P16; Race: Retired (technical problem).
1988 #36 (88C): Qualifying: P8; Race: P12. #37 (88C): Qualifying: P10; Race: P24.
1989 #36 (89C-V): Qualifying: P24; Race: Retired (technical problem). #37 (89C-V): Qualifying: P17; Race: Retired (accident). #38 (88C): Qualifying: P25; Race: Retired (accident).
1990 #36 (90C-V): Qualifying: P10; Race: P6. #37 (90C-V): Qualifying: P14; Race: Retired (accident). #38 (90C-V): Qualifying: P16; Race: Retired (technical problem).
1992 #7 (TS010): Qualifying: P3; Race: Retired (technical problem). #8 (TS010): Qualifying: P4; Race: P8. #33 (TS010): Qualifying: P5; Race: P2. #34 (92C-V): Qualifying: P11; Race: P9. #35 (92C-V): Qualifying: P15; Race: P5.
1993 #22 (93C-V): Qualifying: P10; Race: P5. #25 (93C-V); Qualifying: P12; Race: P6. #36 (TS010): Qualifying: P2; Race: P4. #37 (TS010): Qualifying: P5; Race: Retired (technical problem). #38 (TS010): Qualifying: P4; Race: P8.
1994 #1 (94 C-V): Qualifying: P4; Race: P2. #4 (94 C-V): Qualifying: P8; Race: P4.
1995 #27 (Supra LM): Qualifying: P30; Race: P14.
1996 #57 (Supra LM): Qualifying: P36; Race: Retired (accident).
1998 #27 (TS020): Qualifying: P8; Race: P9. #28 (TS020): Qualifying: P2; Race: Retired (accident). #29 (TS020): Qualifying: P7; Race: Retired (technical problem)
1999 #1 (TS020): Qualifying: Pole; Race: Retired (accident). #2 (TS020): Qualifying: P2; Race: Retired (accident). #3 (TS020): Qualifying: P8; Race: P2.
2012 #7 (TS030 HYBRID): Qualifying: P5; Race: Retired (technical problem). #8 (TS030 HYBRID): Qualifying: P3; Race: Retired (accident).
2013 #7 (TS030 HYBRID): Qualifying: P5; Race: P4. #8: Qualifying (TS030 HYBRID): P4; Race: P2.
2014 #7 (TS040 HYBRID): Qualifying: Pole; Race: Retired (technical problem). #8 (TS040 HYBRID): Qualifying: P3; Race: P3.

Via: Toyota Hybrid Racing
Image: WEC-Magazin (Walter Schruff)