There were just two minutes left on the clock, when Kazuki Nakajima’s number five Toyota TS050 began to slow after the second Mulsanne chicane until coming to an abrupt halt but a few metres after the start-finish line.
Nakajima could only look on in horror as the number two 919 Porsche Hybrid of Romain Dumas cruised past – the eventually winner probably just as gobsmacked at what was transpiring.
Toyota team mate and second-placed Stéphane Sarrazin summed it up best, saying: “even in your worst nightmares you don’t think about that.”
“The car was great to drive” said Nakajima. “It was tough to have Porsche #2 only 30 seconds behind me towards the end but we had the pace and we managed it very well. It was only two laps missing and it’s a pity we didn’t get the trophy; the team deserved to win.”
“When I was doing my last lap to the chequered flag, all the marshals and fans were really kind to me and that was very emotional. I want to say thank you for that. Let’s come back stronger and grab that trophy.”
Nakajima was able to restart the Toyota, presumably on electric power, to complete his final lap final lap before stopping once again at the scene where Toyota lost sports car racing’s ultimate prize. However, with the lap being well over eleven minutes, the car was unclassified for not fulfilling the regulatory six minute minimum lap time.
Nakajima had reported to the team that he was losing power and talk overheard in the garage from a U.S. journalist suggested that a turbo was the most likely culprit.
But why no smoke? It’s possible that the turbo itself wasn’t the root cause, but rather a loose (or burst) intercooler pipe/coupler failure may have occurred, resulting in a loss of boost pressure.
If this is the case, it’s unlikely to have been a progressive problem, rather a sudden issue that no-one could have predicted via telemetry back in the garage. Nobody was to blame, but blame never solves anything anyway.
IMAGES: Richard Washbrooke Photography