Brackley’s Anthony Davidson was left feeling frustrated at the end of the Le Mans 24-Hour Race last weekend, a race that his Toyota team described as disappointing.
Hemel-born Davidson, the reigning world endurance champion, had arrived at the Circuit de la Sarthe hopeful of a performance that could possibly land him his first overall victory in the twice round the clock race.
However, as qualifying and practice sessions started, it became clear that Davidson’s number 1 Toyota TS-040, shared with Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima and number 2 Toyota machine, driven by Alexander Wurz, Stephane Sarrazin and Mike Conway, were going to struggle for pace against manufacturer rivals Porsche and Audi.
Outperformed in qualifying, the race for overall victory looked set to be a tough one, and as the contest developed it became apparent that even a podium finish for Davidson’s car, or the sister Toyota, was going to be difficult.
The two Toyota cars, with their normally aspirated engines, ran well throughout the race, but fell short on the pace required to challenge the two German manufacturers setting fast lap times at the head of the field.
Lapping two seconds quicker than in 2014, the Toyota pace was still not good enough and led finally to a sixth place finish for the number two car and an eighth place finish for Davidson.
He said afterwards: “It’s obviously disappointing not to make the podium this season.
“We were up against strong competition and we knew it would be harder this year but it’s proven to be much more difficult than we imagined.
“We have to stick together, push together and come back stronger. I am immediately thinking about next year’s Le Mans. I will put this one aside and look forward.”
Only one small incident slowed the progress of Davidson’s car during the race. Occurring during the fifth hour, Davidson clashed with a slower GT car, damaging the front right corner of his TS-040.
This caused handling problems and a further accident followed soon after, although quick work by the pit crew ensured replacement front and rear bodywork, plus the fitting of a new left rear suspension.
The delay lost the car 13 minutes, dropping five laps behind the race leader in the process. At the end of the race, the number 1 car was nine laps away from the race winning Porsche 919-Hybrid of Nick Tandy, Nico Hulkenberg and Earl Bamber.
Toshio Sato, Toyota’s team president, said: “Congratulations to Porsche who performed very well and can be proud of their achievement.
“Ultimately our car was not fast enough at Le Mans this year to fight for the podium. We reduced the gap to the opposition compared to qualifying but we were not able to fight, which is disappointing.
“We cannot be happy with this result, but I am satisfied with the professional work and dedication of the team. It has been a hard journey, but we never gave up.”
Davidson and Toyota will continue their FIA World Endurance Championship season at the Nurburgring in Germany at the end of August.