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:
- cross the finish line when the chequered flag is waved, except under circumstances qualified by officials as “force majeure”;
- have covered at least 70% of the distance covered by the winning car.
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):
- when 75% of the race time has elapsed, have covered at least 50 % of the distance covered by the car leading the race or risk disqualification;
- complete the last lap in less than 6 minutes (from start/finish line to start/finish line or from pit out to start/finish line), except under circumstances qualified by officials as “force majeure”.
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.
BREAKING NEWS: THE 24 HOURS OF LE MANS POSTPONED TO 19–20 SEPTEMBER 2020