Whereas two sumo wrestlers combat each other in an explosive barrage usually lasting no more than eight seconds, the 24 Hours Le Mans is the world’s oldest active sports car race in endurance racing, where, racers drive for 24 hours straight in an explosive barrage.
But… when Toyota’s TS050 Hybrid (Car #5) was all set to take the checkered flag with just over three minutes remaining in the endurance race… disaster struck… as it suffered a power failure.
The race began on Saturday, June 18, 2016 at the Circuit de la Sarthe at Le Mans, France with a deluge of rain… with the first 50 minutes of the race conducted under a safety car… which means no one was racing around the track at the usual break neck speeds.
Once the track had dried, Audi’s Car #7 in a R18 rook the lead… but after a couple of hours had to pit to have a new turbocharger installed.
A second Audi R18 sputtered out early, leaving the battle for supremacy to be fought between Toyota and Porsche.
Porsche’s Car #1 919 Hybrid also went out early, leaving Porsche Car #1 919 Hybrid, and Cars #5 & #6 for Toyota’s TS050 racers.
Both Toyota’s ran for 14 laps between fuel stops - one more than Audi and Porsche… which enabled the faster Toyota Car #5 (team: Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson, and Kazuki Nakajima) to pull ahead of the Car #2 Porsche (team: Neel Jani, Romain Dumas, and Marc Lieb) and Toyota Car #6 (team: Mike Conway, Stéphane Sarrazin, and Kamui Kobayashi).
It was with two laps to go (supposed) in the 24-hour race, that Toyota Car #5 - leading by over 50-seconds - suddenly lost power with Najajima-san at the wheel as it was about one-third of the way down the Mulsanne Straight… coming to a dead stop just past the course’s Finish Line with three minutes still left on the clock.
So… Porsche #2 won the 2016 Le Mans, completing 384 laps in 24 hours.
Toyota’s other car… Toyota #6 came in second three laps behind.
Audi #8 finished third 12 laps behind. Audi #78 finished fourth 17 laps behind.
Now surely not everyone passed poor Toyota Car #5 to finish ahead?
Well… there’s a rule in Le Mans that essentially turns cars in DNF (Did Not Finish) if they are unable to complete a lap within six minutes. Apparently time keeps on ticking even after the 24 hour clock is up… when one is on the last lap.
The win gives Porsche its 18th Le Mans win.
This is the second time in three years (2014), that Toyota has managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, as it led for more than half the race before the car died.
In the 2016 version, Nissan performed well… but Car #36, #26, #37, #42, #33, #41, #27, and #23 finished in places five through 12.
Full race results HERE.