Two years after seeing the chance of victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans disappear on the final lap thanks to a technical issue, Kazuki Nakajima was redeemed on Sunday as he took the chequered flag first aboard the #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing machine.
The Japanese racer shared the car with two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso and Red Bull Racing-affiliated Sebastien Buemi, with the trio finishing two laps clear of the sister car of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez.
Nakajima was on course to win back in 2016 alongside Buemi and Anthony Davidson only for the car to fail on him as he exited the final turn heading onto what would be the final lap, gifting the victory to the Porsche LMP1 Team, leaving the Japanese driver heartbroken.
But with redemption on Sunday in the twice-around-the-clock endurance race, Nakajima admitted he was ‘almost speechless’ that he was able to help give the Japanese marquee their first ever Le Mans victory, and the thirty-three-year-old admitted his pride at representing Toyota for a seventh time at the Circuit de la Sarthe and claiming the win with them.
“It’s great to be here finally; it has been a long time. I am almost speechless,” said Nakajima. “I had great team-mates and Toyota gave us a very strong car.
“We finished the race without any issue on both cars so I feel we all deserved to win the race.
“To win this race has been a big dream for all of Toyota since 1985. There have been many people involved in this project so I am proud to be here to represent all that effort.”