Monday, June 9, 2014

LE MANS: 24 Heurs later - the Clock strikes Midnight upon Toyota’s return...



Fast forward twelve months and viola... Where did that last year go? As many things stayed the same, albeit the weapons of choice certainly changed...

2012: 80th running of Le Mans recap
Ah, isn’t it funny how time flies by, which supposedly means I was having fun over the past year, eh? As we all know; shockingly Peugeot Sport sadly withdrew from endurance racing at the beginning of Twenty-twelve, after a five-year fight for Le Mans supremacy vs. Audi  - leaving a very large void in the FIA’s newly created WEC category, the World Endurance Championship which commenced at this year’s 12hrs of Sebring - which once again wasn’t televised; nice way to go you GOOBERS! As I really hope the ABC/ESPN '‘DOUCHE'S cheque was HUGHMONGO Mr. Atherton - as you’ve LOST a longtime devoted ALMS fan by taking away my television access to your races; but I digress...


Yet great fanfare was made over Toyota’s return to Sports Cars competition with its one-hour Road to Le Mans tribute incorrectly pronouncing it was the first LMP1 Hybrid prototype. As sorry Toy Yoter; BUTT! YOU’RE WRONG! As that accolade actually rests with the Minnowesqe American Le Mans Series Corsa Motorsports team that beat them to thy punch by some 3-years...


Yet once again it was the ‘Uber successive might of Audi’s Teutonic efficiency squashing the Japanese rivals, as Audi’s own hybrid racer - the R18 E-Tron Quattro was the very first ever hybrid vehicle to claim Pole-position at le Circuit de la Sarthe; stomping its air of supremacy by securing the grid’s top three positions with its massive four “Works” car armada - with its very own two turbo diesel hybrid’s locking out the front row.

And although I’d turned off thy alarm clock - apparently I couldn’t await the start of the French endurance classic as I majikally sprung awake at 5:25AM ‘Justin-time to catch the 30min pre-race hoopla which included another entertaining segment with Justin Bell... Along with thee ceremonial waving of the French Tricolour by Japan’s father of Hybrid Synergy - as the race around the Rolex clock began with the No. 1 Audi jumping out front whilst thee Scottish Terrier (Alan McNish) made his now trademark slash ‘N cut thrust past the eagerly nipping Toyota’s...

And isn’t it funny how the LA Kings had already wrapped up their debutant Stanley Cup victory a week prior - I guess partly due in thanxs to this being “Leap Year,” eh?

As the race’s first hour seems a blur - as the temptations ‘O slumber were too strong and ‘Ye humble No Fenders scribe went back to bed - as the race had some 23-hours remaining...

Thus later in the day as I watched/listened to copious amounts of the wonderous SPEED television coverage; Remember them? I learned that the ACO, the governing body of the French classic had announced sweeping  new rules for the 2014 race primarily directed towards the LMP1 Prototype category, albeit the series will also allow the usage of diesel engines in LMP2 competition beginning next year which promptly saw the announcement of “Dr. McDreamy,” aka Patrick Dempsey announcing his return to Le Mans as Mazda’s Skyactiv diesel LMP2 Powerplant lead customer next year...


And I missed the live footage of what arguably was the low-point of the race plus its biggest talking point - when ‘ANT (Anthony Davidson) went for that wicked passenger ride when being clipped by gentleman driver Piergiuseppe Perazzini’s Ferrari 458 Italia. Which thankfully Davidson walked away from literally! Having said he felt claustrophobic inside the Toyota TS030’s driver’s cocoon - and had to get out of there after he opened his eyes to discover  “I’m still here!”


As he’d later be diagnosed with having broken his T11-12 vertebrae, in what could have been a whole lot worse; CRIKEYS! (This ‘Mega shunt occurring in Hour-5 I believe...)


And I think it was around 5PM? When I caught the middle of a telephone interview with Dan Gurney, who was asked his impressions upon the Delta Wing which sadly was Hip-checked into the wall by the sole remaining Toyota Hybrid at the time being piloted by 'Kaz, (Kazuki Nakajima) ironically crashing out fellow countryman Satoshi Motoyama.

As Gurney said he’d like to see the car run some more races, while interestingly noting that the concept car that Ben Bolby had shown off to the media was simply a shell; with NO innards at all, i.e.; suspension, engine, tranny, running gear, etc. Yet Gurney praised Bolby by saying he’s an ultra smart Dude... While next year’s Project 56 Le Mans entry will feature a hydrogen powered racecar - which will be the first ever  to compete at Le Mans!  

At approx 7:20PM Pacific time, the No. 1 Audi R18 E-tron Quattro that had been leading the entire race had a wicked snap spin in the Porsche curves which Dorsey said he was lucky to get away with just minor rear end damage... Usually you write-off a chassis spinning like that there! Which gave the lead to the No. 2 'Seester Audi driven by Dindo Capello, Alan McNish and Tom Kristensen briefly, as they’d be split by the safety car in an ensuing caution flag period when running together, as the No. 1 was back in the lead when I called it an evening...

And it was noted how it was Dindo’s 48th birthday on Sunday, as obviously the Italian was hoping for the ultimate birthday present in what was rumoured to be his final outing for Audi?

Yet it wasn’t to be, as once again for the second year in-a-row, co-driver McNish had a second accident with a slower GTE Ferrari which damaged the No. 2’s front end and the ensuing pit stop to replace this cost them one-lap and ultimately “Gifted” the race to the No. 1 entry instead...

Although in fairness the junior team of Benoit Treluyer, Marcel Fassler and Andre Lotterer; the defending race winners, especially Lotterer drove the wheels off of their No. 1 E-Tron Quattro as Lotterer would routinely pull out a gap upon the No. 2 and therefore would have been very hard to overtake. As Lotterer said it best himself in his brief winner’s interview: “Audi allows us to race!”

Thus Treluyer, Fassler and Lotterer made history on multiple  fronts, as their No. 1 hybrid was the first to not only claim a Pole at Le Mans, but to also win the French classic. And these three ‘Boyz joined some very rarefied company by becoming only the seventh-ever trio to win consecutive races along with their female engineer Leena Gade being the first ever woman to win the race in that capacity - again, having engineered the winning chassis the year prior with the same trio of driver's, so all ‘N all it was an ‘Uber stout effort by the entire crew of Audi’s No. 1 chassis.

And I swear I heard SPEED’s Calvin Fish commenting in the early morning hours of Sunday how ‘Meesh’s favourite IndyCar team owner “Booby Ray-X,” nee Bobby Rahal had mentioned how Herr Lotterer was one BAD ‘ARSE ultra talented driver and somebody should snap him up! As we now know Rahal couldn’t entice the German to jump to the rival ALL Ovals Indy Racing League for 2003...

As I vaguely remember his lone CART race where he drove for Dale Coyne and scored one point by finishing 12th, albeit I cannot recall what race it was; although it was late ’02 and I highly doubt it was the Portland event - which was my last ‘Juan with duh Boyz...

As Lotterer would go off to Japan instead where he’d win the Formula Nippon championship before bursting onto the international radar screen with his two 24 Heurs du Mans victories. As its even funnier hearing how he races for Toyota in Formula Nippon but Audi has made him a brand ambassador in Japan, whilst I had NO idea he’d been a Jaguar F1 test driver during the “IRV THE SWERVE” (Eddie Irvine( days...

And while I was very happy for ‘Fishy-fella’s (Giancarlo Fisichella) victory in the GTE-Pro class with the beautimous Ferrari 458 Italia, I was more intrigued by where the Aston Martin would end up? And thus was super pleased that  ‘Yo Adrian (Fernandez) wound-up third in class and thus got to stand on the  podium at Circuit de la Sarthe, as I’d just shaken hands with him weeks prior during an overly enjoyable Legend’s Day autograph session at Mother Speedway (Indianapolis) where I’d asked him if he was still driving for Aston Martin?

And how ‘bout that  Pedro Lamy, eh? Who ran down the leading Porsche 911 in the final hour to claim another class victory at Le Mans, this time capturing the victory for Larbre Competition aboard their ex-factory Corvette C6R...

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