Hybrids ‘not ready for Le Mans’ Toyota suggest after latest defeat

Weekend Racing Wrap

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Toyota’s president suggested hybrid technology may be “not yet ready for the long distance of the 24 Hours of Le Mans” after the Japanese manufacturer again failed to win endurance racing’s greatest prize.

World Endurance Championship

Race 3: Le Mans 24 Hours, Circuit de la Sarthe

After the 2016 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, anyone would have been forgiven for accepting a straightforward Toyota victory to provide redemption for their last-lap heartbreak.

But this time they didn’t come close to making it that far. Within 12 hours of the start all three Toyotas were completely out contention. The leading number seven car of Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Stephane Sarrazin retired due to clutch failure triggered by a bizarre mix-up during a Safety Car period. Kobayashi mistook LMP2 driver Vincent Capillaire for a marshal and pulled away when Capillaire gave him a thumbs-up gesture in encouragement. Kobayashi then had to stop and re-start which subject the clutch to excessive stress, causing it to fail.

Porsche took their 19th Le Mans victory
Porsche suffered trouble with both cars as well. Timo Bernhard, Earl Bamber and Brendon Hartley’s 919 spent an hour in the pits and only managed to wrest the lead of the race from one of the slower LMP2 entries with an hour to go.

The difficulties faced by Toyota and Porsche’s five LMP1 hybrids prompted a surprising response from Toyota president Akio Toyoda. “Even [Porsche’s] winning car number two and our car number eight, which completed the race, were forced to undergo time-consuming, trouble-caused repairs, before struggling to cross the finish line,” he noted.

“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 LMP2 ORECA-Gibson of Oliver Jarvis, Ho-Pin Tung and Thomas Laurent caused a sensation by leading a portion of the race. The trio went on to take second outright and won the LMP2 class.

However Nelson Piquet Jnr, Mathias Beche and David Heinemeier Hansson were stripped of third place overall after their Rebellion team were found to have altered a homologated part of their car. Alex Brundle, Tristan Gommendy and David Cheng were therefore promoted to third place overall and second in LMP2.

A closely-fought GTE Pro race was only decided as the 340th and final lap began. Jonny Adam put the Aston Martin he shared with Darren Turner and Daniel Serra ahead of the ailing Chevrolet Corvette of Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor.

Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters

Races 5-6: Hungaroring

In the first of two races on Saturday, Paul Di Resta took the win for Mercedes ahead of Timo Glock and Bruno Spengler’s BMWs. The two ex-Formula One drivers both pitted on lap six gained back most of the time lost in the pits when Maxime Martin stopped on track with damage. Pole sitter Rene Rast pitted on lap 23 and finished sixth.

Rast took pole for the Sunday race too but this time he held on and took his first career victory in comfortable fashion. He finished ahead of Audi team mate Mattias Ekstrom, with Martin recovering from the previous day’s retirement to take third. Lucas Auer, the championship leader prior to Hungary, failed to finish, meaning Rast also took over at the head of the standings.

European Formula Three

Races 10-12: Hungaroring


A poor weekend for Lando Norris in Hungary meant he slipped to fourth in the championship having arrived at the Hungaroring tied for the points lead. Joel Eriksson holds a slender five-point margin over Maximilian Gunter with Callum Ilott another 12 points behind.

Gunther dominated the opening race of the weekend, collecting fastest lap as he converted pole position to victory. Jake Hughes finished runner-up with Jehan Daruvala completing the podium. Ilott took his own lights-to-flag victory in race two, overcoming early pressure from Eriksson who came home second. Ferrari junior Guanyu Zhou took the final step on the podium but it was another race to forget for Norris, who started on the second row but finished 14th after another poor start.

Eriksson reversed the result in the final race of the weekend, topping the podium ahead of Ilott and Zhou once again. Norris applied pressure late on to take the final podium place, but came up just short in fourth place.



Race 15: Michigan


Kyle Larson claimed victory with a great restart just fourteen laps from the end. Chase Elliot and Joey Logano finished second and third.

Over to you

What racing action did you watch last weekend? Let us know in the comments.

Next weekend’s racing

The Formula One world championship continues in Azerbaijan this weekend, supported by Formula Two. Here’s what else is racing:

  • IndyCar race 10: Road America
  • NASCAR Cup race 16: Sonoma
  • World Series Formula V8 3.5 races 9-10: Motorland
  • World Touring Car Championship races 9-10: Portugal

Thanks to Robert Mathershaw (@mathers) for contributing to this article.

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28 comments on “Hybrids ‘not ready for Le Mans’ Toyota suggest after latest defeat”

  1. petebaldwin (@)
    22nd June 2017, 10:08

    Toyota’s president suggested hybrid technology may be “not yet ready for the long distance of the 24 Hours of Le Mans”

    Honda’s president suggested hybrid technology may be “not yet ready to last a full hour in FP1”

    1. Stark contrast yes. Also Toyota is greatly superior to Porsche speed wise.

      Honda would get almost no flak if power unit would produce class leading power figures..

      1. Hybrids not ready for Lemans. Maybe Toyota hybrids are not ready. When was the last time a non hybrid won the race? Toyotas number 7 car retired due to a clutch issue nothing to do with hybrid. If however Toyota want hybrids replaced with 6 litre aspirated V12’s then thats fine by me.

        1. “When was the last time a non hybrid won the race?”

          When was the last time a non hybrid won an F1 race? Your statement is pretty meaningless because hybrids and non-hybrids have never raced against each other (and non-hybrid would win every single time unless the rules massively hinder the non-hybrids).

          1. How is the comment invalid. For many years Rebellion were in LMP1 with non hybrid and lost. Sadly hybrid will always be faster as they can take the same normal engine as a non hybrid and add more power with a hybrid.

            I was not commenting on F1 but if I had to current engines 1000 bhp with restricted fuel flow. If anything hybrid F1 engines are held back. With no rules on engines a hybrid engine will always have more power. As I have said though I would prefer big high reving V12’s.

          2. the last F1 race with hybrid vs non hybrid was Aus 2011, non hybrid won.

      2. No, it wasn’t “greatly superior”, Toyota was overall faster but Porsche was able to remain competitive with their 3-year old car. The sacrifices Toyota have made in order to gain performance became apparent in this race, as well as last year’s race.

    2. RP (@slotopen)
      23rd June 2017, 1:38

      Full, based on the attrition rate at Indy this year we could draw the same conclusion about Honda’s conventional v8.

      Their engines did better than the honda v8s at Indy, where nearly half failed. But with only three cars Toyota had less room for engine failure.

      1. indy use twin turbo V6s…. but your point still stands :P

  2. I love the WEC. The engines they have are incredible pieces of technology, and the fact that Toyota say that means that there are obviously room for improvements – I can’t wait to see what they roll out in the future. I love the diversity of the LMP1 field and the different methods they take to achieve very similar results. Really disappointed Audi have backed out and Toyota scaled down their operation. I wish there were a good 5 or 6 manufactures each fielding 2 or 3 cars. It was a shame Nissan could make their completely alien concept work.
    Also I don’t know if anyone has seen this lap from Mike Hawthorn around Le Mans, commentating on the lap as he drives it. The quality for that time is actually incredible!


    1. I don’t think Toyota have scaled down. They have the newer car, and brought 3 cars to Spa and LM for the first time. It is Porsche who have scaled down – only 2 cars, no new car (which I think should have been ready for this year the latest).

    2. thepostalserviceisbroke (@thepostalserviceisbroke)
      23rd June 2017, 7:24

      Thanks for the link! Never saw this before. The quality is absurdly good for the era.

  3. So after 6 years of hybrid cars winning at Le Mans 24H, the hybrid technology is not ready for that particular race?!?!
    I would agree with him if he had said “our hybrid technology” or if he mentioned the hotter temperatures (it is clear for me that the technology suffered more from the heat, than originally anticipated)…

    1. “AUDI did not exist!” Akio Toyoda.

    2. Weren’t there rumours that Audi didn’t actually use their hybrid power for large chunks of the race in 2012?

  4. Jorge Mercado
    22nd June 2017, 11:35

    I believe Mr. Toyoda is deflecting so as to not undermine Toyota’s dominance in car sales at the consumer level. If the driver from the other team mentioned in the article didn’t have that thumbs up gesture they would have won the endurance race.

    Toyota’s poll position in qualifying clearly showed that they were quite capable of managing the 24 Hrs. with their current Hybrid technology system design.

    To me, it’s all political theatre.

    1. RP (@slotopen)
      23rd June 2017, 1:27

      I think it is really odd considering how reliable the Prius hybrid system is. The Synergy drive simplifies the mechanical drivetrain. It’s brilliant, at least for wimpy road cars that only need occasional bursts of power.

      You’d think that Toyoda would be more nuanced in his assessment given how important hybrids are to the brand.

  5. This seems a ridiculous statement from Toyota since only one of their three cars lots out due to hybrid-related issues, and have in the past completed race distances in the hybrid era. Not to mention Porsche and Audi.

    I’m not sure if the attrition rate was even all that high, percentage-wise. Usually there would be up to nine LMP1-H cars on the grid, whereas this year there were five. Doesn’t take a genius to work out that you only need to lose a few and you’re then looking at the lower classes to fill the grid.

    I think it’s more reflective of the fact that LMP1 has gotten a bit too technologically complex, and that as a result the field is really thin. TWIW though I thought it was a brilliant race, even though I can understand that from a competitor’s point of view, it was a bit of a disaster.

    1. I completely agree. A burned out clutch and damaged tire have nothing to do with hybrid tech.

  6. Ferrari and McLaren should be there, in LMP1. Mercedes should come back too, along with Lamborghini. Aston martin also has enough technology to be on the LMP1. It seems that many are now flirting with Formula E, however that is a toy race compared to Le Mans or F1. They all should consider WEC more seriously.

    1. @okif1, not that long before Audi withdrew, Dr Ullrich made clear that the WEC has one major problem – as very few people bother watching the other races on the WEC calendar, most of it was effectively a write off for them (I believe that the former had of VW’s motorsport division said that the 24 Hours of Le Mans effectively swallowed up over 50% of their budget – in other words, the other eight races on the WEC calendar are collectively still worth less than the 24 Hours of Le Mans by itself).

      Furthermore, with sponsorship interest being pretty low – bear in mind that, right now, companies like Porsche are also having to sponsor the series to keep it going – most of the costs are being borne by the companies competing in the WEC.

      Added to that, the heavy development restrictions mean that, if you’re not immediately quick out of the box, then you can forget trying to catch up – Toyota did exactly that in 2015, when they openly admitted that, as soon as it was apparent they were off the pace in testing, they wrote that entire season off.

      If you’re a company like Aston Martin, you’re effectively being asked to wager $100 million or more – a sum which would swallow up most, if not all, of their limited profits – on possibly doing well in a single race. The economics of the situation make it something of a losing situation for quite a few manufacturers, such that it is effectively unsustainable for most of them to participate at Le Mans.

  7. They know how their car works, but it seems that the Kobayashi car failure was more operational than technological. They had no contingency for getting the car away from a stop more than once after being put in pit mode. They used the clutch, apparently designed only to blend in ICE power after the car is under way, to get the car away from a stop. It seems like they didn’t account for being delayed at the pit-exit for whatever reason. Porsche, by contrast, had a regular old mechanical failure that would have put them out of the running. Toyota had a terrific car. They just lost the race because , in 24 hours, random weird stuff can happen you didn’t account for, and that’s Le Mans.

    1. @dmw Yeah this seems more a questio of design philosophy really. One of the things about Le Mans is that it’s not necessarily about how fast your car can complete a single lap – this was a philosophy that Audi knew very well and upon which their success was built. Against Peugeot and then Porsche and Toyota, Audi often had a slow car over a single lap, but their real strength was in forseeing all eventualities – they practically revolutionised the way a Le Mans prototype was designed, with a focus on a modular design which could be very quickly taken apart and reassembled using pre-assembled component units. I can’t believe that Audi would ever have designed a car with a clutch that couldn’t cope with multiple standing starts, because the performance advantage of having a tiny little clutch would be massively outweighed by the potential negatives of it being burnt out.

      I think Toyota have gotten better in this respect, but I think they are still a little too focused on making the car as fast as possible over other considerations. Perhaps they just figured that they didn’t need to worry about reliability or serviceability when they brought three cars to the race.

      I just hope they come back stronger and wiser last year. Le Mans is a brutal, brutal environment for doing your learning. But that’s why it’s the greatest race in the world.

  8. *next year

  9. Toyota have put out a statement saying Capillaire has apologised:


  10. I watched the entire 24hrs. I found the LMP2, GTE Pro/AM classes far more interesting To see all the LMP1 cars have mechanical trouble, the massive budgets required and basically only 2 teams competing in the class. It made me doubt the viability of hybrids in racing especially when also comparing to F1.

    1. Theres only two teams competing in F1 and its also down to durability.

  11. What on Earth is Toyoda talking about? Hybrid technology has been racing and winning at Le Mans since 2012. Is this a mistranslation or something?

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