Everyone who watched the race from the trackside or on television saw the #5 Toyota cross the finish line of the 84th annual 24 Hours of Le Mans. Yet the car was not classified. Why? Vincent Beaumesnil, Sports Director of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, explains.
The nine rounds of the World Endurance Championship, which includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans, are governed by the same rules, in particular when it comes to classification. Article 10.15.2 states that to be classified, a car must:
The Toyota TS050 Hybrid crossed the line and had covered the required distance. In fact it completed as many laps as the winning car, the #2 Porsche 919.
However, special rules apply at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Two more conditions must be fulfilled to ensure classification (the first of which posed no problem for Toyota):
Why was the last rule added a few years ago? “For safety”, says Beaumesnil. "Towards the end of the race, cars that had covered the distance would come out of the pits and stop on the edge of the track to wait for the chequered flag. It created a danger for other drivers and was even life-threatening. The ACO therefore decided to set a time limit enabling cars to complete the last lap slowly, but preventing them from stopping and waiting."
The six-minute rule was fatal for the #5 Toyota because although it crossed the line in second place, it completed its last lap in 11:53.815, almost double the allotted time.
Now for “force majeure”. “Force majeure circumstances are external events that are beyond the control of competitors, i.e. a hailstorm or an animal on the track”, says Beaumesnil. "A breakdown cannot be considered “force majeure”. It is the team’s responsibility."
The disqualification of the #5 meant that its sister car, the #6 driven by Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi moved up from third to second place.
Photo: The #5 Toyota TS050 Hybrid stationary in the pit straight at the beginning of the last lap of the 2016 Le Mans 24 Hours.