Highs And Lows For Toyota In First Eight Hours Of Le Mans

The #7 TS030 Hybrid led briefly before a safety car period (Photo Credit: Toyota Racing)
The #7 TS030 Hybrid led briefly before a safety car period (Photo Credit: Toyota Racing)

The first third of the 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans was one of extreme highs and lows for the Toyota Racing team with their two TS030 Hybrid LMP1 cars.

The highest point when Nicolas Lapierre passed the lead Audi to move the Japanese manufacturer into the lead on the Japanese manufacturer's debut at the famous French endurance race. Lapierre completed the pass the run from Arnage to the Porsche Curves after briefly running on the grass earlier in the lap in attempt to take the lead.

Lapierre's taking the lead was quicly followed by Anthony Davidson and the sister TS030 being involved in a scary crash with a GTE Am class Ferrari at Mulsanne Corner. The #8 Toyota flipped into air before coming back to ground on its wheels and hitting a tyre barrier. Davidson was taken to a local hospital for precautionary checks and it is now understood he will remain in hospital until Monday.

The accident prompted a lengthy safety car period, but once the race restarted Toyota's challenge took a further hit when Kazuki Nakajima – in for Lapierre in the #7 – made contact with the Nissan Deltawing in the Porsche Curves. Nakajima was forced to pit from third place to replace the rear bodywork, with a further stop needed to replace the alternator on the car.

The alternator change led to a stay in the garage of over an hour, dropping the #7 well down the order after a fine early showing from both Toyota teams.

“Motorsport can be a rollercoaster of emotions and we experienced great joy to see Nicolas taking the lead of Le Mans, only for the shock of Anthony's accident,” said Yoshiaki Kinoshita, yeam president:  It was a huge relief to hear he is okay and a testament to the strength of the TS030 HYBRID monocoque. Unfortunately that triggered further problems for us as Kazuki was among lapped traffic at the restart and was unlucky to make contact. We've had further issues since then but we will keep fighting to get to the flag; we don't give up.”