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24 Hours of LeMans

2023 Le Mans 24 Hours: No blame on Hirakawa for crash that cost Toyota victory

The crash with 100 minutes left allowed Ferrari to settle in for victory at the 2023 Le Mans 24 Hours.

Toyota 8 Buemi Le Mans 2023
To news overview © XPBimages

Toyota driver Brendon Hartley has insisted there will be no blame placed on Ryo Hirakawa for the crash that took the #8 squad out of contention for victory at the Le Mans 24 Hours.

The Japanese manufacturer has been dominant at the Circuit de la Sarthe in recent years having been the only out-and-out LMP1 entrant since Audi and Porsche pulled the plug on their efforts late last decade.

A change of regulations created the new Hypercar class, which the American LMDh rules also fitted into, to create a highly-competitive 16-car top category including the likes of Peugeot, Cadillac and Porsche.

But Ferrari found itself the team to beat after sweeping the front row in qualifying, with Toyota left aggrieved by balance in performance changes ahead of endurance racing's crown jewel.

Nevertheless, the #8 car driven by Hartley, Hirakawa and Sebastien Buemi, was within striking distance of the #51 Ferrari with 100 minutes left on the clock - largely by virtue of the New Zealander's stunning early morning quadruple stint.

But Hirakawa locked the rear brakes on entry to Arnage, hitting the wall and taking the squad out of contention. With the #7 retiring at the start of nightfall after a multi-car incident approaching a slow zone, the #51 was left in command.

"We gave it all, we were underdogs," Hartley told Eurosport.

"Most of the race, we were one of the slowest cars - it came to us a bit at the end of the race with the hotter temperatures and the last few stints I did were probably the best stints I had done.

"I just did qualifying lap after qualifying lap, I knew if we tried to put them under pressure... they had the pace advantage but we did everything.

"We threw everything at them, we put Ryo in and said 'full risk, maximum attack', we wanted to win the race, he had a little accident.

"It happens. It could have happened to any of us and it happened to many guys out there. Full support for Ryo, the goal was to go maximum attack and that is what we did."

No major issue

On whether there had been any underlying problems with the brakes during his final stint before handing over to his teammate, Hartley explained: "Just at T14, I had a couple of issues there, similar to him.

"I don't think there was a major issue, but massive thanks to everyone in the team, a never give up attitude, big teamwork to get the car to the end in second place.

"Many things can go wrong. I am lost for words. I am disappointed, proud of the team, happy with the job I did."

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