An error mistaking a driver for a marshal has been identified as the extraordinary reason why the #7 Toyota retired from the lead of the Le Mans 24 Hours.

Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Stephane Sarrazin led for Toyota 10 hours into the endurance classic from pole position when the #7 car slowed shortly after a pit-stop with what was later revealed to clutch problem.

With the Japanese driver unable to get the car back to the pit lane for repairs, it marked a bitter and sudden retirement for the car that had largely dominated from the flag.

However, in a bizarre twist, it has come to light the reason the clutch overheated was because Kobayashi on instruction of his team stopped at the end of the pit lane after its mistook a driver waving in enthusiastic support was mistaken for marshal asking him to stop.

"The lead car, the #7, had an extremely surprising problem," technical director Pascal Vasselon revealed to Eurosport. "It had been stopped in the safety car queue and somebody who seemed to be a marshal came to make it start up.

"But the light was red [in the pit lane], so we stopped it. He started and stopped again two or three times, which was not planned, and it overheated the clutch."

As it turns out, the person in question was Algarve Pro Racing driver Vincent Capillaire, who was waving encouragement towards Kobayashi. However, his position near the end of the pit lane coupled to his orange overalls - perceived similar to that of the marshals - caught Toyota out.

Capillaire was later fined for the incident, the Frenchman owning up to his mistake and apologising for the confusion caused.

"I was waiting for my turn, helmet on the head at my box. I wanted to show my encouragement to the leader car, stopped at red light a few metres in front of my box. It was a spontaneous encouragement mark as it happens between drivers. I was fined by Stewards for this gesture and I admit it was inopportune. I regret that."

The exit, coupled to a crash for the #9 car and long delays for the #8 car meant Toyota's wait for an elusive Le Mans win suffers on for another year.

The #2 Porsche won the Le Mans 24 Hours - for the manufacturer's third consecutive success - with the Algarve Pro Racing team ending up 32nd.