The two TS030 Hybrid racing cars are lapping the track at La Sarthe at an average speed of around 140 mph and are separated by just 16 seconds.
The number seven car of Alex Wurz leads the pairing, but it’s the number eight car, driven by Stephane Sarrazin that has recorded the fastest lap, at 3minutes 28.976 – an average speed of 143mph.
So far, the race has run without incident for the Toyota Racing team – although there was one heart stopping moment when the number 8 car left the pits with a fuel hose still attached.
Driving duties have now been handed over by Wurz and Sarrazin to Toyota drivers Nicolas Lapierre and Sebastien Buemi.
UPDATE SATURDAY 1708
Toyota is now running in second and third place following an unsheduled stop for the number 2 Audi e-tron, which was briefly wheeled into its pit garage. According to Audi, the number 2 car had a small issue with a rubber pickup interfering with its rear suspension.
Both Toyota TS030 Hybrids continue to run in formation, with the number seven car, driven by Lapierre running 15 seconds ahead of the number 8 car, driven by Buemi. Audi continues to lead the race in the number one Audi, driven by Treluyer. The Audi is 50 seconds ahead of the Toyota on lap 53.
UPDATE SATURDAY 1900
Toyota leads! Four and half hours into the race, the number seven Toyota TS030 has taken the lead from the number one Audi R18 e-tron quattro!
The thrilling battle for top spot began after the hybrid engined number two Audi e-tron made an unscheduled stop to allow the team to asses an issue with the rear suspension, allowing Toyota to take third and fourth positions.
A subsequent pitstop from the number three Audi led Toyota to take second and third positions.
Both Toyota’s have consistently lapped the track at La Sarthe in around 3 minutes 30 seconds. The number one Audi, by comparison, has been lapping in around 3minutes 32, though responded to the Toyotas with a number of fast laps before pitting.
A pit stop for the Number 7 Toyota at lap 74, and a subsequent crash for the diesel engined number three Audi R18 Ultra proved instrumental in the change of lead.
The number 7 car was just 3.1 seconds behind the number 1 Audi when it was bought in for a pit stop for fuel and tyres. This released the car to a clear track – and once the Audi had pitted, the lead.
UPDATE SATURDAY 1910
Number eight TS030 – driven by Anthony Davidson – hits the barriers on the Mulsanne following collision with number eighty one Ferrari. Safety car is out. A long safety car period is expected as the barriers are repaired.
UPDATE SUNDAY 0800
Last words to Toyota Racing, which has just released this statement:
“TOYOTA Racing experienced thrilling highs and extreme lows during an eventful Le Mans 24 Hours which ended in the 11th hour.
An impressive start to the team’s first race saw the TS030 HYBRIDs fighting at the front, reaching a pinnacle when Nicolas Lapierre, sharing the #7 with Alex Wurz and Kazuki Nakajima, took the lead as the six-hour mark approached.
However, the team’s joy at seeing its super capacitor-based hybrid powertrain lead the field was ended only seconds later due to a heavy accident for Anthony Davidson in the #8 he drove alongside Stéphane Sarrazin and Sébastien Buemi.
He was hit by a lapped car and suffered heavy impact with the tyre barriers at Mulsanne Corner, which comes at the end of the Mulsanne Straight when cars reach a top speed of more than 330km/h.
After getting out of the car on his own, he was taken to the circuit medical centre suffering from shock and back pain. Despite no obvious injuries, he was taken to hospital for checks which revealed breaks to his T11 and T12 vertebrae.
Those injuries are expected to heal fully in approximately three months and he will remain in hospital until Monday.
A safety car period followed that incident and, when the green flags waved, Kazuki fought for the lead. However he was also unlucky with lapped traffic and made contact with another car, causing a puncture and rear bodywork damage.
That began a challenging period for the team, with several problems losing the #7 significant time in the pits as the crew worked hard to achieve the target of taking the chequered flag.
However, an engine failure after 10-and-a-half hours forced the difficult decision to retire the #7 and end TOYOTA Racing’s first race prematurely.
Having proven the performance of its TS030 HYBRID chassis and TOYOTA HYBRID System – Racing in one of motorsport’s toughest races, the team will return to action with confidence at the WEC Six Hours of Silverstone on 26 August.
Yoshiaki Kinoshita, Team President: “Right now our emotion is one of sadness. Our best wishes are with Anthony, who is a fantastic colleague and a positive force in our team. We strongly hope he recovers very soon and we’re sorry we could not provide a result to cheer him up from the #7 car, which suffered firstly an alternator problem and then an engine failure. After all the hard work to get to this point, it really hurts to see both cars retire early. But in the next days we will look back on the first six hours of the race and feel great pride that we could lead Le Mans in our very first race. That is a remarkable achievement with such pioneering technology and this motivates us to push harder than ever to bring home some trophies in the remainder of the season.”