Toyota Is Becoming The ‘90s Chicago Bulls At Le Mans
For nearly a hundred years, a win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans has been considered one of the greatest accomplishments in motorsports. After all, it’s not easy to make it out of the Circuit de la Sarthe in one piece, as many drivers have discovered while trying to navigate this grueling French endurance track.
So, what’s the only thing bigger than winning Le Mans? Winning Le Mans many times, year after year after year.
The history of the 24 Hours of Le Mans has been marked by many famous winning streaks – Ferrari in the early ‘60s, their rivals at Ford in the late ‘60s, and Porsche in the ‘80s all come to mind – but all of those victories came long before the days of hypercars, and certainly before these ultra-powerful vehicles had a class of their own at the race. In a feat that the 24 Hours of Le Mans is calling “the first victory of the Hypercar era,” Toyota claimed their fourth win in a row while also becoming the first winner from the newly-created Hypercar class.
Toyota unveiled its new GR010 Hybrid Hypercar back in January, which is outfitted with a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 engine and capable of 670 horsepower. At this weekend’s race (pushed back from its usual date in mid-June), the GR010 was driven by Toyota’s Gazoo Racing team, made up of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, and José Maria López. The team maintained a confident lead in almost every hour of the race, followed by a sister car driven by Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima, and Brendon Hartley. The other three entrants in the Hypercar class rounded out the top five, led by the Alpine A480 in third place.
But don’t take Toyota’s dominance as evidence that Le Mans has lost its competitive spirit. Ferrari, never one to shy away from a fight on this track, edged out a tough challenge from the Corvette C8.R in the LMGTE Pro class. The team’s Ferrari 488 GTE Evo also won the LMGTE Am class, and things are only going to get more interesting for this Le Mans legend in the coming years. Ferrari has announced plans to enter a car in the new Hypercar class by 2023, and they’ll be joined by the likes of Audi, Acura, Porsche, and Peugeot.
Assuming all these manufacturers make good on their promises, we may end up looking back on the 2021 24 Hours of Le Mans as a turning point towards hypercar dominance – and the Circuit de la Sarthe should welcome this evolution. Until that time, Toyota is in a class all of its own.
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