Why Toyota’s Le Mans Win Matters

A hollow victory. No competition. Not the same.

In the wake of Toyota’s outright win at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, we’ve already heard and read people downplaying their victory. On social media, discussion forums and even media outlets around the world, there’s talk that this victory doesn’t really mean that much. Without the presence of Audi or Porsche, Toyota essentially had only themselves to beat, but I don’t think that’s entirely accurate.

This first win at Le Mans has been a long time coming for the Japanese manufacturer, and has been preceded by numerous heartbreaking moments in recent years. It would have been all too easy for Toyota to call it a day at the end of 2016’s event, where they retired on the last lap of the race, handing the victory to Porsche in dramatic fashion. In 2017, they finished nine laps down on the winning Porsche in their sole surviving TS050 Hybrid. It would have been understandable – if not disappointing – had Toyota chosen to scale back their Le Mans efforts and perhaps divert the finances elsewhere at either of these points, but they didn’t.

2018 Speedhunters Le Mans 2018 Toyota-04
Le Mans 24 Hours Race
Le Mans 24 Hours Race

While Porsche withdrew their LMP1 program for 2018 and Audi had departed a year earlier, it gave Toyota the best chance they would ever have at winning the event outright. Still, anyone with any understanding of endurance racing will know that you don’t win just by showing up. The arduous testing and development involved in ensuring that not only do you have a car capable of winning, but also to have a car that can survive until the end is not a simple or straightforward process. It’s certainly not one that can be easily dismissed.

I would argue that despite having no true rivals at Le Mans, as the only hybrid equipped LMP1 entries, Toyota still had as much to lose as to gain from competing at the prestigious event. Had neither car finished the race, for one of a potential million reasons, they would have been the laughing stock of motorsport. The potential damage that could have been inflicted to the brand would have been catastrophic. But they still entered, and more importantly, they won.

2018 Speedhunters Le Mans 2018 Toyota-01

In previous years, they’ve shown that they have had the pace to hang with and stay ahead of the best of them. The #8 TS050 completed 21 more laps in 2018 than the winning #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid in 2017 over a smaller amount of time. Toyota’s fastest qualifying lap was just under two seconds quicker than Porsche’s fastest qualifying time from last year. This wasn’t a team that was holding back. That’s not to forget that the winning #8 also featured a Le Mans rookie on its driving roster…

This isn’t a post to celebrate a participation trophy, this is one to remind you that winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans is never easy and that Toyota’s victory is a worthy one and should be treated as such.

Congratulations, Toyota.

Paddy McGrath
Instagram: pmcgphotos
Twitter: pmcgphotos

Photography by Toyota



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"Toyota only had themselves to beat" Is essentially the reason why Toyota continued to run the 24 with the hybrid prototype. They had to prove it to themselves that they could put aside the failures of the past to survive and win the 24. Lets not forget that the car that won was a well behind the sister car due to a penalty. Pushing back from that deficit makes the win of the #8 all the more special. And if you weren't a fan of Alonso before, you sure as hell are now.


My respect for Alonso has gone up considerably after his drive in this event and his past attempt and future to win the Indy 500.


Indy is boring though. Now Bathurst 1000, that's a real race :P

Matthew Everingham

I'll just leave this video of Alonso in Toyota #8 overtaking more cars in one lap than he has in his entire F1 Career. IDDQD.


I counted 22 passes (:

Well done Mr. Alonso!

John Krzeminski

Alonso is a great driver no doubt, but what does bobbing and weaving through a bunch of Pro and LMP2 cars while in an LMP1 prove?


not hating on this at all, but it sure helped too when there were blue flags for him. Still, it takes much skill to be doing what he did!


Blue flags in WEC aren't quite the same as in F1. They're advisory, it's up to the faster car to pass, not the slower car to move out of the way.

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

That's a pretty savage statement. Hahaha!

Matthew Everingham

That's not an insult to his career, more a compliment on how ridiculous this lap in the video is! :O
It's like he's playing with 'God Mode' switched on, or taking advantage of a glitch in the matrix. It's straight up BULLSHITTTTTT!!!!


thx, great vid! just so amazingly smooth.

The Poor French Carguy

As true Le Mans fans will know, "You don't win Le Mans, it let's you win". Toyota deserved this win. The previous years were hard fought, against the most fierce competitors... But they are all gone now and Toyota is the only one standing on the line, ready to fight one more time. That alone should make people rethink about that "undeserved" victory. They were here, and Paddy masterfully explained why this alone was already a challenge. Congratulation Toyota, you deserved it !

Jurgen Blondia

So just because someone disagrees, they are not a true Le Mans fan? Bold statement that is....

The poor French Carguy

What you are referring too was about the first phrase only (the quote), not my whole statement.


They say Lemans "chooses you- not the other way around" Im going to say this as clearly as possible- Audi may not have been present, nor Porsche, nor even Peugeot in LMP1- but Toyota defeated a far greater rival- they DEFEATED LEMANS FINALLY.

Christian Schmidt

It's great for Toyota and the JDM industry (remember Mazda 787B 1991) they won the race and they don't need a Diesel to achieve this. For me it is a pity only Toyota fought this year against Le Mans in the LMP1.


Analogy: watching Usain Bolt run a sub 10sec 100m is always incredible and beautiful to see even if he runs it solo. but running it against equally proficient athletes is definitely more pressure packed and exciting to watch. and if he lined up by himself through not fault of his own, the post-race discussion must center on the governing body who put him in that kind of race.

kudos to Toyota.

Jurgen Blondia

Completely agree, and most eloquently worded!

The governing body of Le Mans has completely dropped the ball on this one, especially when nerfing the non hybrid LMP1 cars to give a clear advantage to Toyota.


^ brilliant. Agreed.


Thank you Paddy, I love this article.



While I respect what Toyota accomplished, (I'm certainly not capable of doing what their drivers did nor do I have the engineering prowess to compete on that level) there wasn't anyone in the field realistically capable of challenging them.

It was most certainly an accomplishment of the drivers.
It was most certainly an accomplishment of the engineering teams.
It was not an accomplishment of competition.

There's a subtle but distinct difference. What you saw in 2016, where Toyota almost won, occurred because someone else on the field, Porsche, was challenging them to push harder and faster. Eventually something gave way and Toyota was sadly beaten on the last lap. This year Toyota was the only one that showed up to race in the Hybrid LMP1 class and, while ACO attempted to balance the non-hybrid cars, the balancing missed the mark. The Toyota was the fastest thing out there by a large margin.

It isn't Toyota's fault that they were the only one to build a car for the class, but something about bringing a nuclear weapon to a knife fight makes the whole thing fall flat when we start speaking of historic wins. I still congratulate them on their win however.


ACO attempted to balance? They have openly said that non-hybrids are NOT allowed to be as fast as the Toyotas.
There was /no/ way for any private entered P1 car to even be as fast as a Toyota without Toyota running in to major issues.

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

I agree with this. Toyota generally only had themselves to beat.


Great article happy to see the positive vibe in the comments so far. I was afraid that people would downplay what an achievement this is for Toyota & Alonso. Looking forward to seeing him achieve the triple crown in the near future


A win is a win...buuuuuuuuut without serious competitors like Audi and Porsche it's certainly not as hard to win.

Give it a few years where some more guys come in and the comp gets heavy again. It always does...


sry, but since Toyota had no real rival that could compete with their speed this year they could concentrate to make the car so reliable it probably could drive another 24h without problems


I'll have to disagree. Think about it: even if Toyota was prepared, an unexpected failure for both cars would cause more than embarrassment.


How come the puctures aren't marked for the photographer?


they're press photos from the Toyota team. Seen them on a number of different platforms (Twitter, FB etc etc)


Respect for still showing up to Toyota, but the missing competition.... , fights can cost quite a bit
they also were faster in last years qualifying than the porsches ( which were btw 2017 slower than 2015 )


Epic first picture!


Excuses, excuses. Sure, they finished the race and that is lovely and all. But to say that it was anything other than a participation prize is going too far. I do not think that they deserve the credit at all.

Every time Toyota faced competition, be it from Sauber-Mercedes; BMW; Audi or Porsche, they always took a beating. They would fall behind on the pace, crash themselves out, have a puncture or brake down one lap from the finish, it doesn't matter. Whenever they were forced to push themselves, they failed.

Now that there was zero competition, they won. Really makes you think, does it not?

I rooted for the Japs these last few years. I shared their pain in 2014/2016. But I cannot for the life of me take this win seriously. Credit where it's due for them to finish the race, sure, but that's as far as it should go.


You have to bear in mind that the Rebellions were only 12 laps behind. How long is that? An hour in the pits for either car would have meant a position change. That's puncture at the start of a lap and a crawl back to the garage plus some repair time. Toyota ran a flawless race at full throttle and deserve every credit for winning. Le Mans is about more than the number of overtakes you can stick, it's a team effort where the job of everyone in a team shirt has to do their job to perfection. Anything less and you don't finish first.


Do you think that Audi's domination in the early 2000s doesn't mean as much either?

Jurgen Blondia

To put it bluntly? YES, I do think that!

IMHO, this argument implies that all people criticizing this win are either Audi or Porsche fanboys and therefore just need to shut up...

Although I like both brands, an outright win when the competition is chomping at your heels, rather than being absent or worse - nerfed by the organization like the privateers were - is much more valuable than running the only car in class and finishing the race to take 1st by default.

It does not detract from the achievement of actually finishing a race as gruelling as Le Mans, for which they get my respect. But to brand Toyota as "the ultimate Le Mans champion" like some people are implying, is too much.


How many Le Mans wins did Audi take against the might automotive giant Pascerolo (respect to Piers Courage!). Remember Peugeot’s insane competition in ‘93 (after Bernie and the FIA decimated group C)??

It’s the nature of Le Mans. Sometimes people show up, sometimes they don’t. Either way, it’s inconsequential - beating Le Mans itself is the primary task.

I do wish to see stuffer competition in the future, but I don’t think any less of Toyota’s victory than any of Porsche’s, Audi’s, Peugeot, or even the likes of Ferrari way way back in the day.


I give them credit for making diesel a thing, for beating Peugeot, Toyota and Porsche.


Excuse me.... It's not because you fail every time that when you finally win the race it becomes glorious.

Toyota have a lot of experience in the Le Mans 24H, and with a reliable car and no serious contestants, what's happen ? an obvious victory...

It isn't Toyota's fault that they were alone in LMP1 and they deserved to win because they try very hard, but the victory is not glorious as it should be at Le Mans.

And unfortunately we can expect the same scenario in 2019


Fair play to them, I wasn't following the LMP1 guys this year, I watched as much of the race as I could from the Ford GT's on boards and listening to commentary on radio. They won that's all that matters, would you say a gold medalist 100m sprinter didn't deserve his medal in the Olympics because he didn't set new world record? No. It's what happens on the day that matters.

Jurgen Blondia

Actually, your analogy is incorrect: for it to be correct, the 100m sprinter would be running alone on the track, with only himself to beat...


but they weren't alone, there were 100 other cars. It's not their fault teams left.

Jurgen Blondia

The 100 other cars were all in a different class, and the competitors that got too close, the non hybrid LMP1 cars, have been nerfed bu the organization to make sure Toyota was faster. That's like organizing a 100m sprint race, then deciding that everyone but one of them must run behind a tape about 10 meters behind the one guy that gets to start out in front of the tape.... See where I'm going with this?

Let it be clear: I have nothing but respect for Toyota being able to run and finish a 24 hour race at the pace they did. My problem is more with the organizing body that has effectively held back the rest of the competition, thus in my opinion turning the "fight for victory" into a two horse race, with both horses from the same stable. For Toyota fans to then start yelling 'what a great victory' is a little much. It's like a boxing match in which one guy gets one of his hands tied behind his back, and the other gets to be hailed as 'the great victor'...


Thanks Paddy! Someone had to say it! To discredit Toyota's win is just plain ignorant to truly how hard it is to finish Le Mans, let alone run a near perfect race.

Jurgen Blondia

The word 'win' implies that there was competition with rivals, does it not? I think the word 'achievement' would be better suited.


Well said.

Erich Swafford

Please. We’ve really reached a new low when this win means anything. It reminds me of “Participation Awards”. I feel terrible saying this (because I’m a huge fan of Toyota and their commitment to win at Le Mans), but they should not have run at all, if there wasn’t going to be any competition.

Rapee Leepraditwan

I through Toyota win Lemans is right. They win race by rules.
But, without right competitor (Porsche,Audi,Pegeout,etc.). This win is quite hollow, not perfect win.


Very well said !!! A 24hr race is a 24 HOUR race and anything can go wrong. Truth is that Toyota deserved a Le Mans trophy and finishing in P1-2 shows all of their great effort. Congrats and respect to all of the team!


Toyota really earns this win. There is nothing to blame on them, because there was no real competition.
What's about Audi, they won 10 times + with no real competition either. Then Porsche showed up and stopped that show.
And i can tell you, it was a great show, that race in 2018. I was there and i looked in the face of the people and they really enjoyed that mother of races. Just great Motorsport, as it should be.


Very few commenters here and on other sites have mentioned that rest of the LMP1 field didn't have their shit together.
Both Rebellion cars had to go into the garage for several minutes for repairs, then after that they held back just to make them last.
Everyone else crashed out or broke down. On the overall board 1st through 4th place is Toyota and Rebellion, and the next LMP1 is way down in 41st.


Preach!! Say it louder for those in the back!


Paddy, you made a very good point! Should Toyota have stumbled and lost this race, the repercussions could have been disastrous, to the point we could have lost Toyota from all forms of motorsport... WEC, WRC, SuperGT, GT3...etc. While there is a passion for motorsports inside Toyota, thankfully being pushed from the top, at the end of the day they are a giant corporation that has to answer to the bean counters and board members.

Toyota absolutely deserved to win this race, I've never seen racing heartbreak that this team has endured. Lets not forget the Toyota GT1 cars of the 90's that were also heavily favoured winners, but came up short each time. However, to win without a foe will always be a hollow victory. The basis of racing is that you try to beat the other racer, even in Dakar, where track/course makes many of the decisions, the whole point of racing is to beat a worthy competitor. I bet every member on that team thinks their trophies don't quite shine as bright as Porches and Audi's. All the more frustrating when Porsche "celebrate" 70-years at this race by decorating their GT cars with the liveries of successful prototypes. Rather weak, but understandable considering the Billion-Euro fine parent company VW took.

However, Toyota have their trophies, and I can't wait to see where we go from here.


Some say it was a hollow victory and there was no competition. I say the rules were there for LMP1, Toyota built their car to be the best they could, within the rules provided. They really raced the thing well (2 seconds faster than last years pole time) The other LMP1 manufactures couldn’t match them. This is Motorsport, you build your car to win with the current rules. It’s a race, that’s what a race is, the best team generally wins and they did. Go the Yota


Paddy, Paddy, Paddy ... stop being so overly politically correct.

Articles like this show what is wrong with the world. Reminds me of the annual school run my daughter has to participate in. In my days there were 3 medals, gold, silver and bronze for 1st, 2nd and 3rd. The rest got nothing. Not so in the case of my daughter's school run where *everybody* gets a medal because "everybody is a winner in their own special way."

Yeees, you can't make that shit up.

When I asked my daughter before the race if she was going for the win she asked me: "Why would I dad? I'm getting the same medal as the winner."

Why the political correctness, Paddy? Is it to get into Toyota's good books? Maybe you want SH to be the first to have a look at the new Supra?

For the sake of transparency (which is another "thing" in our world today) it would be good for us to know why you have to publicly congratulate Toyota in such a grand way for such a given win ... a win where other cars would be punished if they went faster than Toyota. (I'm not making this shit up)

Tell us why, Paddy. In the sake over transparency and political correctness, you know we deserve it. Just like we deserve our medal for coming dead last in a school race, like my daughter.


Why does paddy have to explain shit to you?

Toyota came first and second, so they get first and second trophies. Toyota didn’t make the rules, they just lobbied their case, like any good manufacturer would, they didn’t quit the sport because their brand got fined billions of dollars for lying to the world, they didn’t have a shitty, loser’s attitude like your daughter.

Pretty much every driver who has previously done Le Mans has comgratulated Toyota on a job well done...Brundle, Hill, McNish, Tom K (5 Le Mans wins in an Audi against...Audis), etc etc. These are people who’s opinion actually has some credibility, so I’m more willing to side with them, than some angree father on the internet.

The only people to complain about Toyota’s win are the Rebellion drivers....a team that couldn’t even properly fit the nose cone to the car at the start of the race. That’s like starting Le Mans and forgetting to check if the hood is latched. No one that makes that kind of cock up deserves to win Le Mans, never mind a soap box derby. Amateur shit.

I’m quite positive you have zero sense of history at Le Mans, as if you did, you would know that races like this happen at Le Mans from time to time...usually around times where the organizers are fucking around with the regs, and all the manufacturers bugger off. Porsche, Audi, Peugeot....they all have Le Mans victories against no one but themselves (unless your seriously going to consider Cadillac as serious competition to Audi....puh-lease).


I lmfao at all the comments. Too much hate in this world. Fools have no respect. Just their opinions and a lot of bull$hit I tell you. All the haters out there, why don't "you" build some $hit and go out there and kick some @$$? What have you done with your lives? Talk. Talk $hit. All day talk $hit. All day opinions. All day trying to give your 2 cents. No one gives a f&KK. But credit is given to those that go out and do something. Thanks Paddy for the photos and writeup. Toyota and everyone that was involved, you deserve a round of applause. The rest of the fools on the internet and in the world that has this like brain that just "talk" all day, I feel sorry for you. Why? Haters never amount to much. Always have nothing to show for. Just words coming out of your mouths all day and blasting people. Too many fools think they are too smart. Think they got $hit to prove. LMAO. Thanks SH and all contributors for all that you do, day in and day out to give us awesome photos, stories and all the possibilities.