Toyota’s hattrick is a fitting end to this era of LMP1 category cars while Aston Martin victories couldn’t have come at a better time.
In the 88-year history of Le Mans, it has never ever been raced without spectators. Until 2020 that is, the legendary race at the Circuit de la Sarthe was held with 59 competitors but no fans at all.
After 387 laps, Kazuki Nakajima drove the Toyota TS050 Hybrid across the line to claim the 2020 24-Hours of Le Mans title, the third successive victory for both Toyota Gazoo Racing and Nakajima himself who was victorious with the same team in 2018 and 2019 with Sébastien Buemi and a certain Fernando Alonso as his teammate.
Alonso’s replacement Brendon Hartley added a second win to his tally, previously winning with Porsche in 2016.
Rebellion Racing’s R13 Gibson car came home in 2nd position, 5-laps behind the dominant Toyota. The car, driven home by Norman Nato, Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna was a thorn in the 1-2 ambitions of Toyota, splitting the No 8 and No 7 TS050’s. This meant disappointment for the polesitting No 7 Toyota driven by Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and José María López.
As always with the 24-Hours of Le Mans, the results can never ever be predicted, and the No 7 Toyota suffered the fate of Le Mans once again. After taking an early lead and building up a solid advantage of the No 8 car, things seemed to be running like clockwork. In fact, it was the No 8 car that seemed plagued by a cooling issues overnight – not the No 7 car. The No 7 car by their own admission were exceptional, dominating lap after lap.
It all went crazy around the halfway mark when they encountered an issue with the exhaust manifold. The part and the turbocharger just had to be replaced on the No 7. It took 30 minutes to fix it and this brought the car out behind both Rebellion Racing cars as well as the now-leading No 8 car. There was nothing they could do from here on and the team drove home to a lucky 3rd place after the Rebellion R13 had to stop with a clutch issue within the last hour of the race. It was a sad and inconsolable result for the No 7 team that had prepared and raced so well.
This race brings an end to the LMP1 era as we know it, making way for a Hypercar class with new rules and regulations.
The LMP2 category was a much more hotly contested race with 28 cars in the hunt. The story played out similar in part to the LMP1 race. Phil Hanson, Paul Di Resta and Filipe Albuquerque driving the No 22 United Sports Oreca took over the race lead from the sister United Sports No 32 after it hit some technical trouble midway through the race. That left the door wide open for a chasing Jota driven by Anthony Davidson, Roberto Gonzalez and Antonio Felix da Costa to try and close in on the race leaders. The biggest excitement came in the final 15 minutes of the race when the leaders dove into the pits for a last-minute splash of fuel.
This gave the chasing Anthony Davidson the lead and Paul Di Resta came out of the pits just 6 seconds behind. The race was on – but only momentarily when after 2 more laps, the No 38 Jota also headed into the pits for fuel. Victory then for Paul Di Resta, Phil Hanson and a seriously anxious Filipe Albuquerque who couldn’t hide his nerves as he watched the last few laps from the pitlane garage, with Zak Brown close at his side.
The GTE Pro race was won by Alex Lynn, Maxime Martin and Harry Tincknell in the #97 Aston Martin Racing Vantage. In GTE Am category, another Aston Martin, this time from team TF Sport was victorious with Jonathan Adam, Charlie Eastwood and Salih Yoluc at the wheel.
It was a welcome win in both classes for Aston Martin as they stake their claim and build upon their racing name once again.
Le Mans proved once again why it’s a race with so much legend. There were losers and winners; tears of joy and tears of absolute heartache. And that’s why we keep coming back. We just hope the fans will come back too.