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TOYOTA Racing arrived at the Le Mans 24 Hours for its very first race expecting a challenge for its new TS030 HYBRID prototypes. A fine qualifying effort saw the #7 of Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre and Kazuki Nakajima take fifth place on the starting grid, but #8 managed even better. Anthony Davidson, who shared the car with StÃ©phane Sarrazin and SÃ©bastien Buemi, took third place in qualifying to set up a dramatic race.
Throughout the opening hours, the two TOYOTA Racing cars used their hybrid system - which recovers energy under braking, stores it in super capacitors and releases it under acceleration for a significant power boost - to fight at the front of the field.
As the six-hour mark approached, Nicolas achieved an unexpected landmark for the team with a dramatic overtaking move to lead the race. However, seconds later a heavy accident for Anthony eliminated #8 and changed the mood.
Kazuki made contact with another car soon after the safety car came in, while an alternator problem caused a delay in the pits. Ultimately, an engine failure after 10-and-a-half hours forced the retirement of #7.
What is your assessment of TOYOTA Racing's first race?
Yoshiaki Kinoshita (YK): It was very promising but ultimately disappointing. It was our dream to lead the race and to do so, even for only a short time, was fantastic. Of course Anthony's accident was a scary moment, and a turning point in the race. We all wish him a speedy recovery; it was difficult to enjoy the race after that. Unfortunately we faced some problems on #7 and had to retire. It is normal we had to deal with some technical issues in the race because our car is very young and we have not had enough testing, but nevertheless it was an extremely sad moment for us. We leave Le Mans with several areas to improve for future races but we can also be proud; the whole team gave everything they had and I want to say thank you for their great efforts.
How did the TOYOTA HYBRID System - Racing perform?
YK: In the first place, it is a significant achievement from Motor Sport Division and the TOYOTA Motor Corporation Hybrid Department to bring such technology to Le Mans. In terms of performance we are happy with how the hybrid system contributed to our overall speed. I think we showed that our concept has strong promise and we continue to work hard on reliability.
Despite the result of TOYOTA Racing, a TOYOTA engine finished well...
YK: REBELLION Racing, with their TMG-supplied engine, did a great job to finish as the 'best of the rest' in fourth position. That is a great credit to them and I would like to offer my congratulations. The TMG engine support team has worked very hard to provide a reliable and powerful unit so they deserved this strong result.
How did you enjoy the competition with Audi?
YK: We did not know if we could fight with Audi, so we enjoyed the battle while it lasted. Big congratulations to Audi on their well-deserved victory. Le Mans is an extremely hard race to win and they did a fantastic job. As well as being tough competitors on the track, Audi were also very welcoming and friendly; it was a pleasure to race with them. It was also an honour to join their victory party on Sunday and hear the appreciative words of Dr Ullrich. We look forward to some exciting battles in the future and some fun moments between us as well.
What is the team's plan for the rest of the season?
YK: We will compete in the rest of the FIA World Endurance Championship races with one car. That means five races in which to learn about our car and hopefully improve; our target is simply to show our best possible performance at each race.
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