Le Mans: Both Toyotas out, Davidson in hospital with ‘broken back’

Toyota have pulled their sole remaining car out of the Le Mans 24 Hours after 11 hours and 134 laps, leaving the Audi team holding the top three positions. Alex Wurz was the driver who brought the TS030 HYBRID home and out of the race after a lengthy spell in the pits in the eighth hour which resulted in it stalling in the pit lane and forced the Toyota mechanics to push the car all the way back to the garage for repairs.The Austrian driver was well down the order when he rejoined but the petrol-powered hybrid car was not showing its earlier pace. The problems were the result of his team-mate, Kazuki Nakajima’s collision with the Nissan Deltawing in the sixth hour which also led to the Nissan’s retirement.

Nakajima’s accident with the Nissan came immediately after the end of the yellow flag period that had been caused by a major crash involving the other Toyota of Anthony Davidson.The Briton was attempting to pass the slower GTE Am class Ferrari 458 Italia of Pierguiseppe Perazzini just before the Mulsanne Corner when the Ferrari appeared to move across and the two collided. Davidson’s Toyota was thrown into a somersault and although landing the right way up, it crashed heavily into the tyre barriers. The Ferrari also hit the tyres and landed on its roof.

Davidson looked to be ok and managed to get out of the car but then quickly needed medical assistance. He was taken to hospital for checks and it was later announced that he would be staying there until Monday at least.

It seems his injuries were more serious than first thought with the former Peugeot driver tweeting from his hospital bed: “Well, that was a big one! Lying in a French hospital with a broken back wasn’t what I had in mind at this stage in the race… ”

In spite of the crash, Toyota have demonstrated on their race debut with the TS030 HYBRID that they can compete over a regular World Endurance Championship (12-hour) race. Their cars were giving Audi a run for their money and just before Davidson’s shunt, had taken the lead through Nicolas Lapierre, who overtook the #1 Audi, driven by Marcel Fassler.

Toyota’s exit effectively means the race is now Audi’s to lose although the three leading cars – two hybrid R18 e-tron quattros and one R18 Ultra – will all want to win. The lead #1 car is driven by last year’s winners of Fassler, Marcel Treluyer and Andre Lotterer, while the #2 car, also a hybrid, is driven by multiple winners Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Dindo Capello, who celebrates his 48th birthday today and is vying to become the oldest winner of the race.

In third (at 0215 CET) is the lead R18 Ultra of Marco Bonanomi, Oliver Jarvis and Mike Rockenfeller but it is a lap down on its team-mates.

Interestingly, in fourth place is the first of the petrol-powered car, the Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyota B12/60 of Neel Jani, former F1 driver Nick Heidfeld and Nicolas Prost. The car is four laps down but with more than 12 hours still to go, there may well be some further twists before the chequered flag.