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.
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.
The new dawn for the FIA World Endurance Championship has arrived at Le Mans, as Hypercars prepare to duel for victory in the world's oldest endurance race. Motorsport.com picks out the 10 things we have learned in the build up to the race.
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.
Having twice missed out on Formula 1 and reinvented himself as a touring car driver, Jose Maria Lopez has had a rocky ride to becoming a four-time world champion. One more would put him level with his nation's favourite son, but there's another prize he would value far more than the honour of matching Juan Manuel Fangio's tally.
OPINION: After 24 Le Mans 24 Hours participations, 50-year-old Emmanuel Collard will be absent from the grid this year, stuck at the mercy of his gold driver grading. But, while he's not motivated by breaking start records, the French veteran is determined to return to the field next year.
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