24 Hours of Le Mans - Sébastien Buemi (Toyota), four victories and a place among the giants of Le Mans

24 Hours of Le Mans – Sébastien Buemi (Toyota), four victories and a place among the giants of Le Mans

It’s a story like the 24 Hours of Le Mans, this race which demands humility from its contenders and, it is said, chooses its winners after a series of adventures where the imponderable n is never far. Sébastien Buemi has been among the four-time winners of the biggest (Endurance) race in the world since Sunday, because he has once again ticked all the boxes to deserve to live his new daydream.

“It means a lotdid he declare. Since 2016, I never believed it until we crossed the finish line. It’s great to be able to do it again. It’s a great feeling.”

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The Swiss is one of the giants of Le Mans. Since the arrival of this 90th edition of the Sarthois marathon, he has been able to compare himself to legends such as the Belgian Olivier Gendebien and the Frenchmen Henri Pescarolo and Yannick Dalmas, four times consecrated. And he has everything to hope for, at only 33 years old, joining next year the three 5-star champions: the Briton Derek Bell, the German Frank Biela and the Italian Emanuele Pirro.

Before thinking of challenging Jacky Ickx and his six trophies, then the ultimate reference, the immense Tom “Monsieur Le Mans” Kristensen and his nine monuments. What the future will determine for him, in the midst of much fiercer competition from 2023, the year of the centenary of Le Mans and the return through the front door of Ferrari, Porsche and Peugeot, to name a few. “We’ll take it step by step, as usual“, he said.

The emotion of Buemi, quadruple winner at Le Mans: “It means a lot to me”

The embodiment of the spirit of Endurance

Beyond his dimension as an endurance driver, Sébastien Buemi is a true legend of motorsport for the exemplary nature of his career. He had a taste of Formula 1 without frustration for three seasons with Toro Rosso (2009-2011). Unlike many pilots, he was cured of this experience without follow-up before falling ill. Well, not quite: with his irreproachable state of mind, his very professional approach to the job, he immediately put himself at the service of Red Bull Racing by accepting the role of “driver” of the simulator.

A thankless task that he has been carrying out for several years, on the night from Friday to Saturday of the Grands Prix but not only, at the Milton Keynes factory, by testing settings for the holders. Last October, during the United States Grand Prix in Austin, for example, he validated decisive settings for Max Verstappen, who finally managed to beat Lewis Hamilton on Sunday.

Sébastien Buemi is also the story of unfailing loyalty. The native of Aigle has only known one employer for each category in which he works: Dams in Formula E since 2014, even if he will have to look elsewhere in 2023 by force of circumstance, and Toyota in Endurance. since 2013. For the good reason that he knows how to put the interests of his team before his own when necessary, and it was again seen this weekend when Toyota moderated the pace of its GR010 n°8 to ride in formation with the n°7, and better carve its way in traffic. On Saturday evening, he even let Mike Conway overtake him in the lead, since it was obviously an instruction from Gazoo Racing.

A turning point? The Toyota n°7 at a standstill, the Toyota n°8 takes the opportunity to take the lead

“We managed to do everything righthe explained. The key moment was when #7 had its problem this morning. It gave us a little air to finish without worry. It’s a bit hard to realize, I remember being there not too long ago, I had none, now I have four”Buemi commented on Sunday.

Drivers do not fight to start

All this means that today there remains the lowest common denominator of Toyota years in Endurance. The only driver who has known everything, starting with the bitter failures against the Audi and Porsche armadas. Bad luck too, which deprived him of a victory in the last lap at Le Mans in 2016. But, it’s true, the curse has more often dogged the n°7 hit sister car.

Since 2018, Toyota has won five times, and he has seen teammates turn in the n ° 8: Kazuki Nakajima, Fernando Alonso, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa, landed this year from the Japanese Super GT to win the bet.

Hirakawa: “Brendon did the last stint, I would love to do that one day”

We could also add that he had left the lion’s share to Brendon Hartley, by letting him qualify the car on Thursday evening, and take the light in the Le Mans night by taking pole position. Why ? Because he knew his role, defined and assumed for a long time. “Drivers do not fight to start“, he told us on Monday. There are several reasons for this: being alone in the warm up on the Saturday morning of the start, respecting drastic procedures at the start, at the risk of collecting penalties and weighing down the entry crew.

On Sunday, Brendon Hartley drove the car to victory, and it was pure luck. A privilege after which Sébastien Buemi did not run. He just knew he had fulfilled his part of the contract, while his new partner, Ryo Hirakawa, confided dreaming of completing the 24 Hours of Le Mans at the wheel. Without specifying that, ideally, he would like it to be with a teammate named Sébastien Buemi.

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