Kobayashi, Conway, Lopez finally win Le Mans 24 Hours for Toyota

Toyota are Le Mans 24 Hours winners again but it's a first success for Mike Conway, Jose Maria Lopez and Kamui Kobayashi; Team WRT win LMP2 but are denied 1-2
#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing GR010 Hybrid - Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez, Mike Conway [credit: Andrew Hartley]
#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing GR010 Hybrid - Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez,…

Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez can finally call themselves winners of the Le Mans 24 Hours for the first time after completing a peerless performance for Toyota to dominate from the first corner to the chequered flag 24 hours later on lap 371.

A fourth consecutive win for Toyota Gazoo Racing, while the first hat-trick were all achieved by the sister #8 car, on this occasion it was the turn of the #7 trio, who after years of desperately bad luck - particularly in 2016 when the car famously stopped in the final minutes - redemption would finally come in fine style.

Indeed, at no point was the entry ever headed, having qualified on pole position, led into Turn 1 and simply clicked off the laps over the next 24 hours. In all, the trio completed 371, 17 less than in 2020 with the faster LMP1 cars.

The victory - a first for all three drivers after several podiums - marks the first in the Hypercar era with Toyota making the most of the thin competition to never look like it needed to chase the limit.

Indeed, the #7 GR010 Hybrid extended its lead metronomically over the course of the race and suffered with nothing more than the odd electrrical gremlin. Similarly, the #8 car ran reliably throughout but saw its victory hopes ultimately dashed just seconds into the race when it was spun around by a Glickenhaus.

Putting the trio of Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley on an immediate back foot, the car quickly made it back up to second place but never looked like a threat before Toyota put them under team orders towards the end.

As such, the fight for third place proved the more engaging tussle with Alpine eventually prevailing against a feisty Glickenhaus, which arguably exceeded its own expectations with a reliable and momentum-building performance.

In the end though Alpine - which had hoped to challenge Toyota only to blot its copybook with two costly spins - will be satisfied to have brought the ageing A480 home on the podium ahead of a complete overhaul for 2022.

With the second Glickenhaus battling its way up from earlier dramas to eventually grab fifth, it meant all five Hypercar class cars filled the top positions.

Charles Milesi, Robin Frijns, Ferdinand Habsburg - Team WRT Oreca [credit: Andrew Hartley]
Charles Milesi, Robin Frijns, Ferdinand Habsburg - Team WRT Oreca [credit:…


Team WRT suffered a shocking bittersweet tale of joy and woe as it secured victory on its debut but not with the entry it expected to after the #41 car of Robert Kubica, Louis Deletraz and Ye Yifei sensationally stopped at the start of its final revolution.

The car had spent almost 19 hours out front of the class - occasionally trading with the sister #31 car - but couldn’t complete what would have been a 1-2 for the Belgian team, which has this year stepped up from GT racing to LMP2.

Nonetheless, it was still able to celebrate a win with the fortuitous car belonging to Ferdinand Habsburg, Charles Milesi and Robin Frijns snatching the victory at the deathj.

WRT’s misfortune meant every LMP2 runner moved up an unexpected spot, with the #28 Jota of Sean Gelael, Stoffel Vandoorne and Tom Blomqvist completing what had been a methodical rise up the order after spinning in rain early on. They spared the blushes of the British team after the hot favourites of Antonio Felix da Costa, Anthony Davidson and Roberto Gonzalez in the sister car crashed early on and never recovered.

Another debutant impressing first time out was Panis Racing, who landed the final podium spot for Will Stevens, James Allen and Julien Canal.

United Autosports ended the race a positive fourth, albeit still smarting from a bizarre incident that saw its other two cars collide at Turn 1 and effectively put each out of the race.

Interpol Competition celebrated its best Le Mans result yet with fifth in class, thanks mostly to the efforts of Alex Brundle who was regularly one of the fastest drivers on the track.

Elsewhere, the all-female Richard Mille Racing team suffered a bizarre exit when Sophia Floersch was first caught up in an accident when a G-Drive spun into her path, only to then be T-boned by a Eurasia India driver seemingly not paying attention in the slow zone.

Indeed, nearly every LMP2 car endured time off circuit over the course of the race, the legacy of intermittent showers throughout the evening and into the night.

#51 Ferrari - James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi, Come Ledogar [credit: Andrew Hartley]
#51 Ferrari - James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi, Come Ledogar [credit:…

GTE Pro and GTE Am

Ferrari were a double winner in both the GTE class with AF Corse completing victory after holding down the lead for more than half of the entire race.

Initially it seemed the spoils would go to the #52 488 GTE of Sam Bird, Miguel Molina and Daniel Serra before technical issues plummeted it down the order.

Nevertheless, the #51 car driven by James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Come Ledogar would take over at the front and complete a satisfying win in a competitive class that never saw the Corvette Racing car fall more than a lap behind in second.

Pre-race favourites Porsche had to make do with third and fourth with its factory cars, but the pole sitting Hub Auto Porsche was forced to retire.

GTE AM went down to the wire before the AF Corse Ferrari trio of Francois Perrodo, Alessio Rovera and Niklas Nielsen emerged on top, ahead of the TF Sport Aston Martin driven by Ben Barker, Dylan Pereira and Ben Keating.

Read More