By many people's standards, Toyota entered this year's Le Mans as the rank outsiders. With an interrupted test programme and no race experience at all, it seemed unlikely that the Japanese marque would be able to take the fight to the might of Audi.
That has not been the case so far however, as the team have proven to be fast and reliable in the opening two hours of the race. Thanks to problems for three of the Audi cars, Toyota currently finds their two cars in second and fourth places respectively for the #8 and #7 cars.
The #8 machine started third on the grid before losing a position on the opening lap, before swapping positions with the #7 car 20 minutes later. The two cars entered the pit lane together for their first planned pit stops and were quickly underway again thanks to the car's electric power.
“This is a consistent and satisfying start for us. The crew performed well in their first competitive pit stops and it was very satisfying to see the TS030 HYBRIDs pulling away under electric power in a race for the first time.” Yoshiaki Kinoshita, the team president said.
Both drivers were also happy with their starts.
“The start was okay. I was behind StÃ©phane and then was able to overtake him. After the first stop we were getting into the rhythm of the leading cars, who made a gap at the beginning and were able to maintain this. The car was a little difficult to drive at first, but then it improved with a better balance in the second and third stints. I was flat out and pushing like crazy.” Former F1 driver Alexander Wurz said.
“I was surprised at the start because I think some competitors didn't follow the race procedure; normally we have to be side by side. The car was quite sensitive during the first laps but it became better and I was regularly improving my lap times. I had really bad traffic and always in the fast corners; I wasn't so lucky but I am sure it will be better next time. This first triple stint has been positive. We are now on the pace.” Claimed a confident StÃ©phane Sarrazin.