A Win At Last for Toyota - What Did We Think of That?
With Alonso’s #8 Toyota finally clinching the long sought after Le Mans victory for the Japanese team, I look back on the race and form some opinions of my own.
Where to begin? It was a quirky 24 hours. There wasn't a massive amount of action at the front of each field, the night time lagged a bit as it often does, but when the dawn came, battles elsewhere in classes reignited and I was hooked until the end. I'm delighted for Toyota, think the G-Drive did a stellar job and reckon that Porsche couldn't have asked for a better 70th birthday present.
I'm sure I'm not alone here, but I think the current fuel/stint length regulations are a bit daft. How can you have an 'endurance' series when the amount of fuel/number of laps you can run are limited? While it makes sense to want parity between hybrids and non-hybrids, when technology has been pushed as the core of the championship for so long, it makes no sense to put a cap on how far it can go. Surely this has a negative effect on road relevance too? The FIA have been pushing road relevance for a while now, so why not let the teams run as long as they as ultimately, that's what we need our road cars to do!
And while we're talking regulations, BoP. Balance of Performance. It's a necessary evil. Or at least that's what we're told. I do honestly get where they're coming from; I'd rather watch a series where the competitors are more evenly matched rather than just one lot flying off and winning everything. But John Hindhaugh said it quite nicely - it needs to be more open. The ACO should communicate more effectively what it all means, why they make the changes they do and so on. You'll still get people complaining, that's inevitable, but more transparency is a step in the right direction.
Say what you will about Toyota or LMP1 or the state of the World Endurance Series. But for goodness sake don't take this moment away from the Japanese team. This has been a long time coming, a lot of the team have been together for years working towards this goal. They thoroughly deserve this result and I for one am very happy that their Le Mans curse looks to be broken.
Talking of teams that deserve a little respect, let's talk about CEFC TRSM - Manor. Through no fault of their own, they lacked the finances to pay Ginetta and their two chassis were withheld causing them to bow out of the Six Hours of Spa. For a while, nobody was sure if Manor really would turn up for Le Mans, but they did and boy did they fight. In a car that had done far fewer miles than its rivals, the Manor team showed their spirit today and I'm very proud of them for getting the #5 car across the line. It's been a rather bumpy start for Graeme Lowden's lot, but fingers crossed it gets better for them.
I'm a little sad for the Panis Barthez Competition LMP2 crew. They'd been running a solid race and really impressed me getting their Ligier as high up as second in class, but a clutch problem saw them spend a lot of time in the garage and drop down the order - such is the cruel mistress that is Le Mans. G-Drive Racing, however, seemed to well and truly conquer the beast. Having led the race from around lap ten, Jean-Eric Vergne, Roman Rusinov and Andrea Pizzitola didn't put a foot wrong throughout the 24 hours and thoroughly deserve their class win.
Aside from Toyota's win, I think the thing that made me smile the most in this race was Patrick Dempsey's reaction to his team winning. Sure the battles between the Fords and Porsches in GTE Pro were intense and had me on the edge of my seat, but Dempsey's win brought me sheer joy. As the #77 crossed the line, he let out what can almost be described as a roar. The happiness that spilt from the man was infectious and I found myself almost welling up alongside him! He may be Dr Derek 'McDreamy' Shepherd; he may be a Hollywood star. But he's also a race fan, just like the rest of us.
Cover Image: Toyota Gazoo Racing