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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