Toyota has confirmed that a sensor failure caused it to change the wrong tyre on the #7 car in the closing stages of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, forcing Jose Maria Lopez into an additional pit stop that cost him, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi victory. 

The #7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid dominated the opening 23 hours of running at the Circuit de la Sarthe, only to be forced into stopping on consecutive laps with one hour remaining.

Lopez was called into the pits with a puncture, with the team opting to only change the front-right tyre on his car. The Argentine emerged from the pits still leading the race from Kazuki Nakajima in the sister #8 Toyota.

But Lopez was forced to slow again on the next lap after finding he still had a puncture, allowing Nakajima to overtake for the lead of the race.

While Lopez’s tyre was replaced, he came back out of the pits in P2, and was unable to recover the lead before the end of the race, falling 16 seconds short at the flag as Nakajima, Sebastien Buemi and Fernando Alonso won both the race and the World Endurance Championship drivers' title.

“We kept a fresh set of tyres for the end to be safer,” Lopez explained. “We came in, we changed one tyre, I exited, and I still had a puncture.

“The puncture was very low at that time, 0.5 bars, so I couldn’t go more than 100 kph. 13 km is a long lap.

“Our hopes of winning dissolved there. It was too late in the race to come back.”

“It’s unfortunate, isn’t it? You never get sensors that are reading wrong in a car,” added Conway, who scored his third P2 finish at Le Mans on Sunday.

“You get the odd one I guess, but in the moment it really counted… We had the issue at Spa. I’m gutted really.”

Asked if there was time for Toyota to change all four tyres on the car instead of just one, Conway said: “Yeah, we did.

“I only saw the TV when I saw him going around very slowly, so I missed the first part that he’d actually had a puncture. We had a 2m20s lead, so there was time.

“I couldn’t believe it. I heard someone on the radio, and I was like I wasn’t sure if I heard that right, and then I saw the thing on the TV. You’re just gutted.”

Kobayashi added: “Right now, at this moment, I don’t like Le Mans. It’s hard to take it, but this is life, and this is racing.

“I’m pretty happy. We had a little bit of drama at the end. But for me, I think we need to work hard again for the next year, and definitely we’ll try to come back stronger.”

 

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