Journal De Bruxelles - Buemi takes fourth Le Mans as Toyota win again

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Buemi takes fourth Le Mans as Toyota win again
Buemi takes fourth Le Mans as Toyota win again / Photo: JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER - AFP

Buemi takes fourth Le Mans as Toyota win again

Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi collected his fourth Le Mans title when he and fellow-drivers Ryo Hirakawa and Brendon Hartley steered their Toyota to victory in the 90th edition which ended on Sunday.

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The victory marked a fifth successive win for the Japanese manufacturer which has dominated since Porsche won its last title in 2017.

Buemi was in the car that won in 2018 when his teammates were Fernando Alonso and Kazuki Nakajima.

"It's a bit hard to realise," said Buemi at the finish. "I remember being there not that long ago, I had none, now I have four."

The 33-year-old Swiss, who took part in 55 Formula One Grand Prix for Toro Rosso, remains far behind record holder Tom Kristensen. The legendary Dane won Le Mans nine times.

The winning drivers completed 380 laps in the classic endurance race. New Zealander Hartley collected a third victory and rookie Hirakawa of Japan a maiden win.

They had overtaken a second Toyota driven by three-time defending champions Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez earlier Sunday after the latter experienced engine problems.

That trio finished second, 2min 01.222sec behind their winning teammates.

In third place were Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook and Franck Mailleux in a Glickenhaus, at five laps.

Irish actor Michael Fassbender and eight-time world rally champion Sebastien Ogier were among the drivers of the 62 cars which had set off at the start of the race on Saturday.

About a quarter of the 186 drivers entered were competing in their first 24 Hours of Le Mans, including movie star Fassbender, driving a Porsche 911 RSR in the Proton competition.

Fassbender, who has twice been nominated for Oscars, crashed during his fourth lap in qualifying but did not suffer any injury.

Fassbender's team eventually finished 51st, 51 laps shy of the winning Toyota team.

- 'Humility' -

Ogier fared somewhat better, finishing 13th overall in his all-French team featuring Lilou Wadoux, one of five women drivers in the race, and Charles Milesi, driving an Oreca 07.

"I arrived with a lot of humility in this project because despite my (rally) victories, this was all new to me.

"I liked everything a bit. I really enjoyed the last stint a lot, it went more calmly for me because I had instructions to look after the car as much as possible.

"I had never been here before. Now that I've tasted it, it just makes me want to come back."

History was also made when Josh Pierson took to the track two hours into the race to become the youngest driver in the event at 16 years and 118 days.

The record had been expected since the American was named alongside experienced Britons Alexander Lynn and Oliver Jarvis as one of the three drivers for the United Autosports Oreca in the second-tier LMP2 class.

The car struggled with early technical issues and was 13th when Pierson took the wheel shortly after 18:00 local time (1600 GMT) on Saturday.

As he drove onto the track, Pierson broke the record held by compatriot Matt McMurry who was 16 years and 202 days when he drove in 2014.

His team eventually came across the finish line 10th, 12 laps off the pace.