Anthony Davidson says 'nobody would believe if a movie ended like this' as he saw his and Toyota's dreams of a long-awaited Le Mans 24 Hours win cruelly scuppered in the closing minutes.
The #5 Toyota crew of Davidson, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima looked set for an emotional maiden victory in the endurance classic after an almost trouble-free 24 hours of racing, Nakajima seemingly on course to bring the car over the finish line as it managed its advantage over Porsche in the closing stages.
However, disaster would strike just four minutes from the end of the race as Nakajima reported a loss of power, the TS050 Hybrid grinding to a halt, agonisingly on the start-finish straight just two laps shy of the end.
An desperate conclusion to a race in which Toyota had defied expectations as it took the fight to favourites Porsche with better-than-expected race pace, the unprecedented ending left all three drivers dumbfounded not least given Toyota's history of heartbreak in previous Le Mans attempts.
“That was an unbelievable end to such a difficult race,” Davidson said. “You couldn't have written the way it ended; no-one would ever have believed a movie if it ended like this. So to actually live through the experience is pretty hard to take, but it will make us stronger and we'll be back.”
“It's hard to find the words for what has happened,” added ex-F1 driver Buemi. “We were in control of the race and were so close to the win that we all want. This is the biggest race of the year so it's even tougher to accept. It is so disappointing for the whole team; we did the right preparation and we had the car to win. So we already look to next year when the target will be clear.”
For Nakajima, who was at the wheel of the car as it failed, he paid tribute to the marshals and fans who rallied around him as he was forced to abort.
“First of all thank you to all the team members; we did everything right. The car was great to drive. It was tough to have Porsche #2 only 30 seconds behind me towards the end but we had the pace and we managed it very well.
“It was only two laps missing and it's a pity we didn't get the trophy; the team deserved to win. When I was doing my last lap to the chequered flag, all the marshals and fans were really kind to me and that was very emotional. I want to say thank you for that. Let's come back stronger and grab that trophy.”
Even more galling for Toyota, though their advantage over the remaining field would see them still notch up the second highest number of laps, by not reaching the chequered flag the trio were not classified and therefore not featured on the podium.