Once again, Toyota’s 24 Hours of Le Mans hopes were dashed but the Japanese constructor ran a fine 2017 campaign overall, marked by two records and an outstanding end of season. Will the much longed-for Le Mans victory finally happen in 2018?
In the first qualifying session ahead of this year’s race, Toyota earned its place in the Le Mans 24 Hours record books with the fastest-ever lap of Circuit de la Sarthe, taking pole position with an average speed of 252 kpm. However, pure performance was not enough and even though Toyota lined up three cars for the 24 Hours, two retirements and almost two hours spent in the pits for the surviving car put paid to any hopes of victory.
The WEC drivers’ title ultimately went to Porsche’s Timo Bernhard, Earl Bamber and Brendon Hartley, but the trio in the #8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima also put in a stellar performance, taking five wins in nine races, more than any other LMP1 crew in a single World Endurance Championship season. The drivers, from Switzerland, Great Britain and Japan respectively, won the first two races (Silverstone and Spa-Francorchamps), then the final three (Fuji, Shanghai and Bahrain) rounds of 2017.
At the wheel of the #7 car, Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway were among the season's most frequent pole-sitters. Their teammate and newcomer to endurance racing, Argentina’s José Maria Lopez had a difficult start to the year after an accident at Silverstone forced him to miss the Spa race so he could fully recover before Le Mans. Nonetheless, the three-time World Touring Car Champion made it on to the podium twice later in the season. Alongside his first season in a Toyota LMP1 prototype, he also competed in his maiden Formula E campaign for DS Virgin this year.
Toyota has now confirmed that it will contend the 2018-2019 Super Season of the World Endurance Championship, but has yet to reveal its driver line-ups. This announcement is eagerly awaited, especially since the appearance of two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso at the Bahrain Rookie Test. If it all comes together, the world’s leading manufacturer of hybrid road cars could finally achieve its goal of winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Photo: After finishing eighth at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the #8 Toyota TS050 HYBRID driven by Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima ended its season with three straight wins.