Aiko Toyoda, the president of the Toyota Motor Corporation has released the following statement as a result of a disappointing 2017 LeMans 24 Hours which saw just one of his company’s cars finish the most famous endurance motor race in the world.
Sorry we weren’t able to let you drive all out.”
Normally, it would be proper to start off with words of appreciation for the support provided to us by our fans. However, for this time at Le Mans, I think I must first direct my opening words to our drivers.
To me, at Le Mans for the first time, our drivers said, “We want you up together with us at the center of the podium”, “For that, we definitely don’t want to lose”, and “So fight together with us.”
In return, I said: “Drive all out. Trust the cars the mechanics readied for you. Enjoy Le Mans.”
Despite telling them such, I was not able to allow them to drive all out. This, I truly regret. Even though our drivers drove believing in our cars, I can only say how sorry and how full of regret I am.
I believe that the Toyota engineers, mechanics and parts suppliers, who built our cars for this battle, all feel the same.
Therefore, bearing the burden as a representative of all such people, please let me say once again: “Sorry we weren’t able to let you drive all out.”
Also, to all the people related to the Toyota team, including our nine drivers, I would like to share two things on my mind at this moment.
The first is for our fans.
To all the fans who supported us believing in victory for Toyota, I am truly sorry that we were not able to meet your expectations.
And for believing in us and giving us your passionate support for 24 hours all the way to the end, I want to express my deepest appreciation. Thank you. Thank you all so very much.
Once again, Toyota will strive for the day on which we can, together, have smiles on our faces.
The second is for the Porsche team.
After last year’s battle, I happily received many comments from people at Porsche recognizing us as a rival.
To live up to having been called a “rival”, I had thought that what we needed to do this year was to again put up a brilliant fight that would captivate the fans.
That is why the team was able to take up bold challenges that resulted in new technologies and skills.
To the Porsche team, I say congratulations. And I also say thank you very much.
In the end, however, Toyota was not able to put up the kind of fight that could captivate the fans, like it did last year.
This time, both Porsche and we, Toyota, were not able to complete without incident 24 hours of driving in the hybrid cars that we put to the challenge on the roads of Le Mans.
Both even winning car No. 2 and our car No. 8, which completed the race, were forced to undergo time-consuming, trouble-caused repairs, before struggling to cross the finish line.
While the hybrid technology that has advanced through competition in the FIA World Endurance Championship puts its abilities on display in six-hour races, it might be that it is not yet ready for the long distance of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The power of electricity is absolutely necessary for cars to take on a more-emotional presence.
Le Mans is a precious laboratory in which we can continue to take up the challenges related to the technologies involved, putting such technologies to the test in an extreme environment.
We will hone our technologies even further and ripen them to provide our customers with technologies that will truly make them smile. And we, Toyota, will go on making effort after effort so that we can continue making ever-better cars.
We invite you to look forward to what we will be able to achieve. Thank you.
Toyota Motor Corporation
Former Formula One driver Kamui Kobayashi started the race from pole position in the No.7 TSO50 Hybrid along with Mike Conway and Stephane Sarrazin. The trio completed 154 laps. Speaking following the race, Kobayashi commented by saying:
It is very disappointing because I thought it was going to be our day because we were quick and we felt we were controlling the race. Again we found out how hard it is to win Le Mans. Big thanks to the team who put so much effort into this race. It is not only about speed, because we had that but in the end we missed the win. We just have to come back and go for the win again next year.”
Mike Conway commented on his race by saying:
The race started off well with good pace and we were controlling it from the front. Unfortunately we had the issue which took us out of the race very quickly; from having no hint of trouble to retiring so quickly was tough to see. It was a real pity and to see the other TOYOTAs have problems around the same time is just massively disappointing. We were hoping at least one of us would be on the top step of the podium today but it wasn’t to be.
Stephane Sarrazin commented by saying:
It’s just incredible. We had such a good car; all week we were impressed by the balance and efficiency. The team did an amazing job in the winter, so here to have three cars out of the game is unbelievable; it doesn’t seem possible. This race doesn’t want to come to us for some reason. It is a very demanding race, as you saw with Porsche #1 stopping. We never give up and we will come back strong; and we need to believe we can do it.
Nicholas Lapierre, Yuji Kunimoto and Jose Maria Lopez were in the No.9 TSO50 Hybrid and were forced to retire from the race after completing 160 laps of the race. Speaking following the race, Lapierre commented by saying:
It was a very hard race for us with a lot of misfortunate. We had a few smaller issues earlier in the race which cost some time but we were running a strong second and back in the fight. In turn one I was hit by an LMP2 who hit the back of me due to the normal fuel cut; there was nothing we could do about it. It was the beginning of the track so it was impossible to get back to the pits. It was very, very disappointing.
Yuji Kunimoto commented on his race saying:
My first Le Mans was a tough and frustrating race. I was really enjoying the experience and we looked quite strong until the problem. When I saw the car had stopped I was so disappointed because the whole crew worked so hard to be ready for this. The team and my co-drivers did a good job; thank you to them. I wanted to get a good result for them but it was a very difficult race. Now I just want to come back and race again at Le Mans.
Jose Maria Lopez commented by saying:
We knew when we came here that it is a cruel race. There is a lot of work goes into this and we came here with a lot of strength. At this moment I only think about coming back next year stronger. We will fight this race and show we are strong enough. I am proud of everyone in the team, the mechanics, engineers and my team-mates. They did a fantastic job. I have no regrets.
Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima in the No.8 TSO50 Hybrid ended the race in ninth place and speaking following the race, Davidson commented by saying:
It’s so disappointing to drive so many laps in such a great car for no meaningful reward. That’s all I was thinking later in the race when I was setting fast laps and closing down the other cars but the gap was too big after the problem. Once again Porsche did a great job. We won’t give up; we’ve proved that by coming here with such a good car this year which gives me faith in the team that we will do it one day.”
Kazuki Nakajima commented by saying:
It was a tough race for the whole team as it always seems to be here. I have no words really; we just need to try again next year. We had the car and the speed but we missed something else. So many things happened to us despite all the hard work and preparation; it was not enough I guess. Next year we have to try even harder, prepare better and fight harder.
Sebastien Buemi commented by saying:
I don’t know where to start. We lost a lot of points for the championship and that’s what you think of when the victory is out of reach. Hopefully we still have a chance to fight for the World Championship. I would like to say thank you to the team, especially the mechanics who worked very hard. I feel sorry for everyone. The only thing we can do now is focus on the rest of the season.
Next up for the Toyota Racing team is the six hour of Nurburgring from 14/16 July.