Mike Conway says the Toyota Gazoo Racing garage was in tears when it realised its certain chance of a maiden Le Mans victory was crushed by an engine problem at the start of the final lap.
After completing impressive stints in the sister #6 Toyota car Conway was preparing for huge celebrations as his team looked set to secure a first Le Mans win with the British driver's car finishing in third.
But the excitement quickly turned to despair as the leading #5 Toyota slowed on the penultimate lap before stopping on the home straight with just four minutes of running remaining.
The dramatic failure of the #5 Toyota – currently diagnosed as a problem with the combustion engine on the TS050 Hybrid – saw Conway's car move up to second but his team ultimately missed out on a maiden win at Le Mans which left the team in tears.
“We are all in the garage and everyone is crying and so upset,” Conway said. “I was upset as well because you never want to see that because you see all the effort to put the cars where they were.
“Over the radio we knew something cut out on the combustion engine but it needs to be investigated. It still ran to get it home but something happened to it.
"I'm really gutted for those guys as they had a great race and they deserved to win. That is what this race is like. You never know until the last dying seconds what is going to happen.”
Despite the painful end to Le Mans, Conway hopes Toyota can focus on the positives from the race. The team showed a remarkable step up in performance from last year – when it finished six laps off of winners Porsche – and had superior stint performance by being able to produce 14-lap stints to trump its rival with its strategy.
“There are lots of positives to take out of it,” Last year we finished six laps down this year we were fighting all the way for the win,” Conway said. “We've made huge strides and know where we can gain it is just a case of keep pushing.
“We can be confident for the rest of the season but it will be tough. Audi and Porsche have very good packages.”