Kurt Verlin
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Toyota Wins First Hypercar-Era Le Mans

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After two near misses, No. 7 Toyota drivers finally vanquish the world's oldest endurance race

No. 7 Toyota Drivers Celebrate 2021 Le Mans
From left: Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, and José Maria López
Photo: Toyota

Toyota Gazoo Racing became the first Hypercar winners of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, a historic moment that marks the manufacturer’s fourth consecutive victory at the prestigious event.

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More so than for Toyota, it was a career-defining moment for the drivers of that winning No. 7 GR010 Hybrid car: Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, and José Maria López. The trio has been racing for Toyota since 2018 and twice came desperately close to cinching that Le Mans win. In 2019, their efforts were denied by a tire puncture. Last year, it was a turbo issue.

During those years, the No. 8 Toyota picked up the pieces and claimed victory. But finally, at the first Le Mans race featuring the new Hypercar regulations, the No. 7 prevailed. Don’t let the orchestrated photo finish, pictured below, deceive you — the sister car finished two laps behind.

“We’ve come so close so many times and to get it done here with the new Hypercar as well [is special],” said Conway. “I was crying like a little girl. We worked so hard for this one and you forget how hard it is.”

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Toyota 1-2 photo finish at Le Mans 20211
Photo: Toyota

It was a great day for the Hypercar regulations as a whole, too. Alpine’s entry finished third while Glickenhaus rounded out the top five with both of his SCG007 prototypes. It bodes well for the new regulations that they produced cars capable of 24 hours of racing in their first year, and should only encourage more manufacturers to join in.

Of course, several manufacturers have already stated their intent to compete in the new Hypercar class as well as the comparable LMDh class in the IMSA, but manufacturers have been known to change their minds at seemingly the last moment. This latest edition of Le Mans should help avoid such a scenario.

Toyota, meanwhile, must avoid resting on its laurels. The taste of podium champagne is sweet, but starting next year, it will have tougher competition on its hands than Glickenhaus, a much smaller team, and Alpine, which is still racing what is essentially a beefed-up LMP2 car.