Monthly Archives: June 2016

Flashback to 1998 – Toyota’s last minute WRC heartbreak

Toyota’s last lap mechanical failure at Le Mans is one of the biggest motorsport stories of 2016. Having covered more than 5,200km the leading car ground to a halt with only 3 minutes left on the clock. Toyota lost Le Mans in 1994 when their leading car suffered mechanical problems two hours from the finish, and they also suffered similar defeats in 1999 and 2014. Getting so close only to miss out once again is just devastating.

Incredibly, this sort of last-gasp failure has happened to Toyota before.

When Tommi Makinen crashed out of Rally GB at the end of the 1998 WRC season, Carlos Sainz only had to cross the finish line to win the World Championship. He cheekily described his chances of doing so as 99% but those words would come back to haunt him.

At the end of the final stage Sainz was racing past fans who had packed in to see the finish. However, all was not well. With roughly 300 metres to go the Toyota suffered a catastrophic engine failure that also resulted in a small fire. Unable to push the car over the line and then all the way back to the service park, Sainz was left by the side of the road to ponder how he lost the World Championship within sight of the finish. Toyota’s usually strong engine failed at the worst possible moment.

Toyota’s Le Mans team handled their recent disappointment with great dignity and respect. In 1998 Carlos Sainz’s Co-Driver, Luis Moya, was a little less reserved and ended up throwing his helmet through the Corolla’s rear windscreen.

This short film captures the anguish and despair from 1998 that Toyota had to re-live again under different circumstances 18 years later.

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Le Mans: Did that actually happen?

A day after the event it’s still hard to believe that Toyota came within 3 minutes and 20 seconds of winning the Le Mans 24 Hour race, only to have their car grind to a halt on the very last lap. Heartbreaking barely describes it, especially for a team that still hasn’t won Le Mans despite coming close several times before. That’s one of the cruellest defeats in motorsport history.

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Toby Price did something quite amazing this month

Not only did the reigning Dakar champion, Toby Price, win the Tatts Finke Desert Race for the 5th time, he did so after competing in both the car AND bike categories. This meant he had to complete the long stages in his buggy before flying back to start line and going through them again on his bike. He dominated the bike category and finished 2nd among the cars so actually got close to a stunning double victory.

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Vale Luis Salom

Thoughts and condolences are with the family of Luis Salom who has succumbed to injuries sustained in an accident during Moto2 practice. Salom won nine Grands Prix and challenged strongly for the Moto3 World Championship in 2012 and 2013. His family have agreed to continuing the weekend’s racing at Barcelona.

Luis Salom was 24.

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A quirk of timing helped Artem Markelov to victory at Monaco

Artem Markelov took a controversial GP2 victory at Monaco last weekend after gaining significant time on his rivals during two Virtual Safety Car periods. His win became the subject of a stewards inquiry but the investigation revealed that Markelov simply got lucky.

Markelov inherited the lead at Monaco when his rivals pitted, and although he might’ve expected to fall back behind them when he made his own pitstop, Markelov held onto first place because he was able to gain the necessary time during two Virtual Safety Car periods. In theory this shouldn’t be possible but Monaco’s layout created a unique situation.

The Virtual Safety Car mandates that drivers must stay above a minimum sector time. When it was used during the GP2 race at Monaco, Artem Markelov happened to be on the tight twisty part of the circuit heading down towards the harbour. This meant he didn’t need to scrub off too much speed because he was on the slowest part of the track anyway. Meanwhile, his main rivals were on the fastest part of the circuit so had to drop a lot more speed.

Additionally, when the Virtual Safety Car period finished, Markelov was on the fastest part of the track so gained the most potential from the restart. His main competition was back on that tight section so didn’t gain the same advantage.

This could only happen at a circuit like Monaco where the slowest sector is ridiculously slow. Markelov got lucky with the timing, and it shows how a Virtual Safety Car (generally much fairer than a conventional Safety Car) can still advantage or disadvantage some drivers.

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Two amazing things happened at the Nurburgring 24 Hour race

1. A hailstorm hit the circuit with such intensity that cars became stuck in the ice on uphill sections of track. The race was red flagged because drivers simply couldn’t move until the hailstones cleared.

2. After 24 hours of racing the lead changed with a wheel-to-wheel battle on the FINAL LAP. That’s an insanely close finish at the end of 3400km.

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20 riders fought for Moto3 victory at Mugello

The Moto3 Grand Prix at Mugello was an absolute classic with a group of 20 riders fighting over the lead for the entire race. After 100km just a few seconds separated the lot. Spare a thought for Livio Loi who finished only 2.3 seconds behind the winner but was so far down the order (16th) that he didn’t score any points.‬

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