Archive: The dramatic ending to Toyota and Peugeot's last Monza showdown
Peugeot rejoins the top-flight sportscar racing fray at Monza this weekend, as the new 9X8 Le Mans Hypercar makes its World Endurance Championship debut. It marks the latest chapter in its battle with Toyota, 30 years on from their last Monza duel in a dramatic Sportscar World Championship round, as Adam Cooper explained in the 30 April 1992 issue of Autosport
Geoff Lees and Hitoshi Ogawa scored Toyota's maiden World Championship sportscar victory in the 1992 opener at Monza, a race in which the Japanese marque was firmly the underdog against Peugeot's 905B.
After the withdrawal of Jaguar and Mercedes from the championship, the 1992 season was framed as a season-long Peugeot versus Toyota battle. But after its Monza triumph, where Tony Southgate's new TS010 was the only classified finisher as Yannick Dalmas crashed the leading Peugeot he shared with Derek Warwick almost in sight of the flag, it never again took the top step and Peugeot swept the remaining five races.
Warwick and Dalmas won the title, while Ogawa was tragically killed in a Japanese Formula 3000 crash at Suzuka less than a month after his win at the same track.
The world championship collapsed at season's end, after just eight cars appeared at the Magny-Cours season finale, and wasn't revived until 2012. Toyota was present, but not 2009 Le Mans 24 Hours winner Peugeot - the French marque having cancelled its LMP1 programme on the eve of the WEC's first season.
As Peugeot makes its long-awaited WEC debut with the 9X8, here's the story of the marque's last Monza bout with Toyota on a remarkable day in April 1992.
Derek Warwick applauds as Hitoshi Ogawa and Geoff Lees celebrate victory
Photo by: Motorsport Images
The weather had been improving steadily all weekend and a physically demanding race was in prospect as the temperature rose on race day. Unfortunately the same could not be said for the atmosphere in the grandstands, as a small crowd turned up on Sunday to watch.
Mazda had a busy morning as Mauricio Sandro Sala over-revved the engine in the warm-up and the third power unit of the weekend was duly fitted. Derek Warwick found that the Peugeot porpoised on full tanks - not a good omen for the afternoon. Toyota concentrated on scrubbing in tyres during the warm-up, the car apparently proving wayward on unscrubbed covers.
There was disappointment at Euroracing as the Stefan Johansson/Jesus Pareja Lola T92/10 got stuck in two gears on the parade lap and had to be removed from the grid. It did not start. Also in trouble was the Chamberlain Spice, which developed a fuel leak and had to start from the pitlane.
After 10 laps Warwick led by four seconds from Lees with Baldi and Lammers a second apart. Volker Weidler in the Mazda was fifth and lapping in the 1m31s, compared to 1m29s for the top four
From the rolling start, Warwick led into the first corner from Geoff Lees (Toyota), Mauro Baldi (Peugeot) and Jan Lammers (Toyota), who narrowly failed to outbrake the Peugeot. Baldi passed Lees into the Parabolica at the end of the first lap, as Warwick pulled out two seconds on the field. Lees shadowed Baldi, who set the fastest lap on lap two at 1m29.37s.
The FIA Cup contingent ran their own races with Rainieri Randaccio's SCI Spice leading Gigi Taverna's Bernard de Dryver version from the Gebhart and Dave Coyne (Argo). The Chamberlain pursued from a distance.
Warwick lapped the FIA Cup cars for the first time on lap six, allowing Lees and Lammers to close on Baldi through the traffic. Lees lined up the Peugeot and found a way by on lap eight, through the Parabolica.
After 10 laps Warwick led by four seconds from Lees with Baldi and Lammers a second apart. Volker Weidler in the Mazda was fifth and lapping in the 1m31s, compared to 1m29s for the top four.
Warwick quickly bolted into the lead at the start ahead of Lees, who was passed by Baldi before the lap was over
Photo by: Motorsport Images
The remaining Euroracing Lola, with Charles Zwolsman at the helm, suffered gearbox difficulties from the start, managing laps in the 1m34s bracket. Zwolsman badly held up Baldi on lap 18, allowing Lammers to close up to within half a second before the first round of pitstops.
Warwick came in on lap 21, remaining in the car for the second stint. A lap later, Lammers came in and he too continued. Weidler handed over to Sala after a lengthy stop caused by a faulty starter cable. Cor Euser took over from Zwolsman in the Lola as Philippe Alliot relieved Baldi. Lees's stop delayed him a minute as the front left wheelnut jammed. Peugeot now had the cushion it needed.
On lap 25 Lammers' Toyota slewed left at Ascari, slamming into the Armco near a cluster of startled photographers.
"It really took me by surprise," said Lammers afterwards, his relaxed appearance a tribute to the strength of the Toyota. "It felt like the tyre blew just as I was flat on the power. I had no control at all."
When the badly damaged car returned, a broken axle was found to be the cause. After 30 laps, Warwick had an eight-second lead over Alliot with Lees nearly a lap down.
The Mazda coasted in on lap 37 with a misfire, spending several minutes in the pits before returning to the fray. "This is very much a test session now," smiled John Judd. Sala stopped the car out on the track near the end of the race.
The Alliot Peugeot rolled to a halt at the Lesmo on lap 40 with a dead engine.
"I thought it was the exhaust, so I gave it a blip to clear the problem and let it go. We used the T-car today, as the race car engine failed this morning. The car handled badly all race long. Since Saturday morning this has been a lousy weekend for Mauro and I."
Mazda wasn't able to put up much of a fight with its reworked Jaguar XJR-14
Photo by: Motorsport Images
Warwick handed over the lead Peugeot to Yannick Dalmas with 1m29s in hand over Lees. As he cooled down, Warwick seemed satisfied with his afternoon's work. "We're running well," he said. "The temperatures are no problem and the car feels good." He later explained that the brake pedal had been long for much of the race, but he had been able to drive around it.
Dalmas allowed the Toyota to close up to within 50 seconds as he made an unscheduled stop on lap 50 to tighten his belts.
Euser parked the Lola with a box full of neutrals. "The gearbox is our biggest problem, always has been," he said.
Two laps from the end, the Peugeot inexplicably slid sideways over the kerbs at the second chicane and rolled, converting the 905 into a Spyder
As the field depleted, Randaccio and 'Stingbrace' found themselves third with the Chamberlain fourth and Almo Coppelli's Gebhardt fifth. Coyne retired with an under-reving engine and the de Dryver car yielded to a broken clutch.
Dalmas held Hitoshi Ogawa's Toyota at around 50 seconds, although there were anxious faces in the Toyota camp as the Japanese reported by radio that the car was overheating. The crew was ready for a pitstop, but Ogawa was able to contain the problem.
Two laps from the end, the Peugeot inexplicably slid sideways over the kerbs at the second chicane and rolled, converting the 905 into a Spyder.
"I had soft brakes for a few laps before," said a distraught Dalmas, "and I pumped the brake pedal to get some response. The car went sideways and off the track."
Ever the consummate professional, Warwick looked at the positive side, 15 points for second place and so on. But he was clearly furious and out of public view asked his engineers what Dalmas thought he was doing going so fast with a known brake problem.
Dalmas's late crash was treated with consternation in the Peugeot garage
Photo by: Motorsport Images
Ogawa completed the final lap to win his first world championship event and the first for Toyota. Lees was pleased with the win, despite the bizarre circumstances.
"I couldn't keep the Peugeot behind me at the start," he said. "They do seem to have a better straight line speed, but once the Peugeot had done a few laps I think they had some tyre trouble and we were quicker in the corners. It was hard to catch Derek, though."
For Peugeot, with 120 invited journalists present, it was the worst possible scenario. For Toyota, the race was a learning experience, rewarded with a win.
Monza will not be remembered as the greatest sportscar race ever, but it would be a mistake to write it off as a farce. The Peugeot/Toyota battle will continue to be close all season and Mazda is sure to join them with more development. Silverstone in two weeks will be a decisive race in many respects.
You can watch Peugeot's sportscar return in the 2022 Monza 6 Hours live on Motorsport.tv. Click here for more information.
The #7 Toyota of Lees and Ogawa was, remarkably, the only car running at the finish
Photo by: Motorsport Images
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