With three minutes and 21 seconds to go, the leading No. 5 Toyota TS 050 that was on pace to take the win came to a halt in front of the pits, ceding the 24 Hours of Le Mans lead to the No. 2 Porsche 919. It’s an unbelievable end for a car that was so reliable for the other 23 hours and 50 minutes of the race.
The Toyota had lost power out on track in the last ten minutes of the race, only to finally come to a halt. Everyone had been so prepared to welcome only the second Japanese manufacturer in history to win Le Mans, but then Toyota suffered a crushing failure.
Like Toyota’s No. 5 entry, Porsche’s No. 2 car was its most incident-free car, eventually winning Le Mans by turning many incident-free laps and staying out of the pits as much as possible. Porsche’s No. 1 car had spent too much time fixing gremlins that led to a lengthy disassembly and reassembly in their own garage. It and the No. 5 swapped for the lead many times throughout the race.
Toyota driver Kazuki Nakajima’s radio message to his team after he finally got the No. 5 started again was gut-wrenching. He and the rest of us just want to know what happened, and why.
Porsche won its 18th 24 Hours of Le Mans as a constructor today. Toyota TS 050 No. 6—not No. 5—was classified as winning second place. The No. 5 was able to be restarted and crawl in, but was not officially qualified as a finisher. The final podium spot was given to the No. 8 Audi R18 instead.
No. 5 was listed in 45th place overall after getting bumped, only ahead of the other cars that retired or did not complete the final lap.
Elsewhere in Le Mans prototypes, the No. 36 Signatech Alpine claimed that number one spot in the LMP2 class once and for all. The experimental Garage 56 entry of SRT 41 by OAK Racing completed a total of 315 laps—with quadriplegic driver Frédéric Sausset taking the checkered flag.
[Correction: We originally reported that the No. 5 TS 050 was classified as finishing the race, but it was later revealed that they were not.]