The wait is finally over – Toyota scored a stunning victory at the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans, finally ending its 20-race search for its first win at the world endurance classic. The #8 TS050 Hybrid driven by Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Fernando Alonso took the chequered flag ahead of the #7 car piloted by Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José Maria López to cap off an emotional 1-2.

With main rival (and last year’s winner) Porsche out of the top-flight LMP1 category this year, Toyota Gazoo Racing was the outright favourite as the only manufacturer still in the class, bolstered by Nakajima putting the #8 car on pole on Thursday. With the sister car following closely behind, the two Toyotas were pretty much unchallenged for the lead throughout the race, trading places throughout.

That didn’t mean that there weren’t any hiccups along the way, with both cars being hit with stop-and-go penalties. A 60-second penalty for the #8 car was brought on by Buemi speeding in a slow zone just after midnight, but rookie Alonso helped close the gap to the #7 with a strong night-time stint. He then handed the car over to Nakajima, who swept past Kobayashi during the 16th hour to reclaim the lead in the morning.

Errors by the #7 team in the closing stages put paid to the battle for the win, first by López spinning at the Dunlop chicane with three hours to go, then by Kobayashi missing his cue to pit with just over an hour and a half left on the clock. The Japanese driver had to crawl around half the track before coming back in – a situation compounded by a 10-second stop-and-go penalty for exceeding the mandated 11-lap stint.

In the end, the #8 cruised home two laps up, making Toyota only the second Japanese carmaker to take overall victory after Mazda in 1991, and banishing memories of its last lap heartbreak in 2016. Rebellion Racing was best of the rest of the LMP1 field after attrition cut down all but one other privateer entry, with the #3 R13 Gibson of Gustavo Menezes, Thomas Laurent and Mathias Beche taking the final podium step ahead of the #1 of Neel Jani, Andre Lotterer and Bruno Senna.

Meanwhile, the #26 G-Drive Racing Oreca of Jean-Eric Vergne, Andrea Pizzitola and Romain Rusinov took LMP2 class honours ahead of the #36 Signatec-Alpine driven by Nicolas Lapierre, Andre Negrao and Pierre Thiriet, and the #39 Graff-SO24 Racing Oreca of Tristan Gommendy, Jonathan Hirschi and Vincent Capillaire.

As for the all-Malaysian driver team of Nabil Jeffri, Weiron Tan and Jazeman Jaafar in the #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca, they finished 10th overall and sixth in class after a mechanical issue afflicted the car in the opening minutes of the race, putting them at the back of the field.

In GTE Pro, the retro-liveried Porsche 911 RSRs finished 1-2 on Zuffenhausen’s 70th anniversary, with the “Pink Pig” #92 of Kevin Estre, Michael Christensen and Laurens Vanthoor dominant ahead of the Rothmans-coloured #91 of Gianmaria Bruni, Richard Lietz and Frédéric Makowiecki. The #68 Ford GT of Sébastien Bourdais, Joey Hand and Dirk Müller took third after a heated battle with the #91 with three hours to go.

As for the GTE Am class, the #77 Dempsey-Proton 911 RSR of Julien Andlauer, Christian Ried and Matt Campbell clinched another win for Porsche ahead of the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE of Giancarlo Fisichella, Thomas Flohr and Francesco Castellacci, with the #85 488 GTE of Jeroen Bleekemolen, Ben Keating and Luca Stolz taking third for the Keating Motorsports team run by Risi Competizione.