How Alpine's stunted Portimao charge kept Toyota clear
Despite going stride for stride for pace at Portimao, Alpine’s grandfathered LMP1 couldn’t convert pole position into a sustained victory fight against Toyota. And due to rules and car limitations that are set in stone, the French manufacturer will be searching for solutions in its own battle of endurance.
The Toyota Le Mans Hypercars battled right to the end of the Portimao 8 Hours last Sunday in what on pace was actually a three-way battle. Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley led home a 1-2 for the Japanese manufacturer on a day that Alpine was a match for anyone on speed but not on fuel mileage.
Toyota had a faultless race at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve and therefore ended up making it two wins from two starts with the GR010 Hybrid at the start of the new era of the World Endurance Championship. Alpine had no issues either with its Gibson-engined A480 grandfathered LMP1, save for the one with which it started the race. There has been — and will be — no resolution to its inability to go the same distance between fuel stops as its LMH rivals. And for that reason, Nicolas Lapierre, Matthieu Vaxiviere and Andre Negrao were effectively racing with one hand tied behind their backs.
It's 50 years since Jo Siffert was killed in his prime at Brands Hatch. The Swiss scored just two world championship wins in a Formula 1 career spent largely with privateer teams, but showed on numerous occasions in single-seaters and in sportscars with Porsche that he could beat any of the best drivers of his era given the right equipment.
Team WRT has been at the forefront of GT racing for years and made a successful move to prototypes for 2021, capped by an LMP2 win on its Le Mans debut. It could've been even better had the race been one lap shorter, when its cars ran 1-2, but the stranger-than-fiction reality has spurred the team to reach greater heights.
Toyota scored its fourth Le Mans 24 Hours victory and a 1-2, with the #7 car of Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez beating the #8. But although it looked straightforward from the outside, Toyota faced serious problem that had to be solved with some quick-thinking and ingenuity.
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One Toyota, normally with the number 7 on the side, always seems to attract the bad luck in the Le Mans 24 Hours. Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez are hoping for a change in fortune this time around, but face significantly more unknowns than in recent years
Many were quick to dismiss Glickenhaus when the boutique American sportscar firm's entry into the top class of the Le Mans 24 Hours was announced. It's all-new LMH racer, powered by an engine built by a rally specialist, goes in as the underdog against Toyota but the mathematical odds suggest that it has more than just a faint hope of success.
The JW Automotive Engineering team won twice at the Le Mans 24 Hours with ageing Fords and was considered the heavy favourite to add more victories to its tally after partnering with Porsche. But despite being armed with the all-conquering 917, this formidable combination was never as successful in real life as on the big screen.
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