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100 Le Mans Moments From The DSC Era (51

Oct 09, 2023

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4 June 2023, 11:05 AM

For 10 days in the build-up to the 2023 running of the Le Mans 24 Hours, DSC is reflecting on some of the best, worst and wacky moments from its time covering the event since the turn of the century.

Today is the sixth day of DSC's 100 moments feature, the previous parts can be found below:

PART 1 – PART 2 – PART 3 – PART 4 – PART 5

51. Kristensen tops Ickx (2005)

Jacky Ickx had a matchless record at Le Mans and it took something, or rather somebody, very special indeed to top it.

Tom Kristensen's Le Mans history started with a bang, a win in 1997.

After a pair of DNFs Kristensen then achieved no fewer than six consecutive wins, with Audi, then Bentley and then Audi again.

The sixth in sequence saw TK finally pass Ickx's record tally in a Champion Racing R8 in 2005.

There would be two more wins, one apiece in the diesel and hybrid eras.

In total the Great Dane's Le Mans career numbers 18 starts, nine overall wins, two second places, three third places and four DNFs (three of which came when teammates crashed out when leading the race) – a quite staggering record.

52. Third time lucky for Peugeot's 908 (2009)

Peugeot's campaigns at Le Mans with its spectacular 908s are all-too-often remembered for its failings, but in 2009 it all came together for the French marques’ third overall win (after their pair of wins in the 1990s with the 905).

A dominant one-two was the rest, but even then there was the feeling amongst many that ‘the wrong’ Peugeot had won with Marc Gené, David Brabham and Alex Wurz taking the win ahead of an all-French crew.

The storybook will record that one of the best sportscars of the mid-late ‘noughties’ scored only one win in the five attempts at Le Mans – a poor return from a car that absolutely dominated the 6 hour/1000 km races of the period.

53. Overly enthusiastic JLOC (2007)

The JLOC squad from Japan (JLOC stands for Japanese Lamborghini Owners Club) have raced at Le mans several times – but two appearances over a three-year period yielded just two racing laps with their GT1 spec Lamborghini Murcielagos.

Almost exclusively based on a shot of the team garage celebrating as they retired the car after just one lap, their outlook has been often criticised. But it has also been pretty radically misunderstood.

2007 saw the team reeling after a big shunt in qualifying on the Wednesday for Marco Apicella left the Italian hospitalised and the team's car effectively destroyed. Against the odds the ACO allowed the team to replace the car, the (DAMS loaned) 2004-vintage Murcielago arriving very early on race morning.

The team managed to do the prep and complete the required laps in the race morning warm-up but suffered a heartbreaking driveshaft failure after only a single racing lap!

Fast forward to 2009 and JLOC were back – and in trouble again!

A Wednesday driveshaft failure cost them the day's running and further issues on Thursday saw them miss the qualifying minimum.

Lobbying from the team though saw them allowed to take the start though, allegedly, Apicella had already left for home!

A senior JLOC team member told this writer some years later that whilst they opted to start the race and retire after just a single lap – this was the moment that the TV cameras captured a team member celebrating. That ‘moment’ was a release of emotion after a week of adversity, and the retirement had come because the car was lacking a homologated part, a potential safety issue and a definite route to post-race disqualification!

"We had come so far to be let down by parts not being available – we did one lap out of respect for the race, not the opposite!"

54. GT2 car finishes P6 (2001)

The keys to success at Le Mans always have been – consistency, staying error-free and out of the pits, and pace.

The 2001 iteration of the race saw that delivered beautifully by Seikel Motorsport.

Its #83 Porsche of Fabio Babini, Gabrio Rosa and Luca Drudi (father of current GT racer Matt) produced an all-too-infrequent faultless run to finish an astonishing sixth place overall. It crossed the line a single lap behind the LMP675-winning ROC Reynard and 5 laps ahead of the GTS (later GT1) winning Corvette which scored the first of the GM factory team's many Le Mans victories in a topsy-turvy race!

55. Dalla Lana's Ford Chicane moment (2015)

Paul Dalla Lana's recent step-down from the FIA WEC means that he now looks certain NOT to break his astonishing run of bad luck at Le Mans in GTE AM.

In 10 appearances, Paul scored five DNFs and was not classified in 2015 – we’ll come back to that one!

His only podium finish came last year with a third.

Without doubt though in a Le Mans career peppered with dramas of the most unwelcome sorts, the lowlight came in 2015.

Dalla Lana himself was at the wheel of the #98 and was leading the class fairly comfortably with just 45 minutes remaining.

That was until an error into the Ford Chicane saw the car into the barriers and out of the race – the Canadian later admitting he had made a basic error. The car would be listed as Not Classified because of the distance covered but without crossing the finish line!

It's to his eternal credit that he came back punching, but in a career in the WEC that reads 1 x Championship win and 15 x race wins he will not be adding ‘Le Mans Winner’!

56. Kolles cars impounded (2013)

2013 and the Kodewa Team of Colin and Romulus Kolles team were fielding a pair of full-season Lotus T128 LMP2 cars in the WEC, both cars then featured at Le Mans.

Ahead of qualifying a small gaggle of vehicles appeared in the pit lane with court officials and others entering the team garage, presenting team managers with legal papers and dismantling parts from both cars.

A court hearing the following day determined that the parts should be returned to the team in what turned into a nasty little dispute between the team owners and some key suppliers including chassis manufacturer Adess over unpaid invoices, both sides alleging that paperwork presented to the court was not factually accurate.

Neither car would finish the race.

57. Davidson's crash (2012)

2012 saw Toyota step up to the plate in the FIA WEC in the wake of Peugeot's untimely and unexpected pre-season withdrawal. The TS030 in its initial form was never intended to be a race car, more a development tool, the powertrain with its supercapacitor energy storage medium entirely untested at the level at which the car was intended to perform.

Nevertheless, the cars were prepped for battle, missing the first two rounds as there was testing to be done.

Two cars arrived for Le Mans, highly unusually their very first race, and they were fast!

After a steady start, the Audis haring away, the Toyota pace started to pick up, at the end of the fifth hour Nico Lapierre took the lead in the #7 Toyota after a great battle with Benoit Treluyer.

Almost immediately though there was major trouble for the other (#8) Toyota, Ant Davidson tangling with the GTE AM AF Corse Ferrari of Pierluigi Perrazzini, the Toyota losing a rear wheel, getting sideways and rolling in mid-air before slamming into the barriers on the outside of Mulsanne Corner.

The Ferrari ended up on its roof, the Italian unhurt but whilst Davidson managed to get out of the Toyota under his own steam, he had fractured his T11 and T12 vertebrae and would have a lengthy recovery process, the incident leading to later changes in the LMP1 regulations on both aero and driver seat position.

It also led to a change in this writer's outlook on commentary on such accidents, an initial "He's out of the car, he's OK" comment on Radio Le Mans proved to be profoundly incorrect!

58. The first hybrid win (2012)

Motorsport has an odd relationship with roadgoing relevance, all too often opting for gimmickry rather than real advancement of technology.

Happily Le Mans has the opposite reputation with a catalogue of ‘firsts twinkling proudly in it's now century-long history.

Amongst the most recent was the 2012 one-two from Audi with its R18 e-tron Quattro, a transitional point for the LMP1 class from a battle of the diesels, to a battle of electrified (and in this case hybrid) technologies.

Prior to 2012, there had been but a single hybrid effort, the Hope Polevision Oreca of 2011, and that was far from a glittering success.

To witness the progression in the hybrid tech over just a few short years was spellbinding, Audi making it clear that it was completing Le Mans on 40% less fuel than in pre-Hybrid days by 2014!

And whilst other bemoan the tech either as soulless or not far enough, the reality in a rapidly changing world is that it is likely to be seen, in hindsight, as the most relevant formula of the lot!

59. The Team LNT Panoz Esperante wins (2006)

Everyone loves a minnow winning the race and Panoz had come into endurance racing as just that, the Don Panoz-established challenger brand running hand in hand with the US businessman's push to commercialise and promote international sportscar racing.

The first effort was in the top class and that's how it stayed through to the early years of the 21st century until Panoz looked at the customer GT marketplace with the Esperante GTLM.

Team LNT switched from TVRs to the Panoz and had a mixture of success and frustration, the Esperante's Ford-based engines a constant source of trouble. So, whilst the Yorkshire, UK-based effort came into Le mans in 2006 with high hopes, there were perhaps more modest expectations.

But somehow everything came together, the car powering through as the usually bulletproof opposition hit issue after issue, with the then leading Porsche pulling off very deep into the last knockings of the race (see elsewhere in this series for Dom Farnbacher's heroics in rescuing a podium!), and leaving the Panoz to a fast cruise to a famous win, amidst faces of disbelief from the Ferrari, Porsche – and Panoz teams!

60. The Janos trolley dash! (2004)

Janos Wimpffen was part of the DSC reporting team for over a decade. The Hungarian-American motorsport historian and author boasts a global reputation for his detailed anthologies of sportscar racing history.

He is, however, terrible at shopping… A failure never made more obvious than his attempt at the 2004 Le Mans 24 Hours, to arrange catering for DSC's seven-man travelling team. Having been handed a fist full of Euros to go and do the food shop pre-race, he brought back a bag that contained the following:

– One box of peppermint tea– One tin of pickled mushrooms (no tin opener)– One jar of capers– One small baguette– Pâté– One jar of something that none of us could identify– A jar of pickled cauliflower

Janos was never sent shopping again, which may very well have been the point!

Tagged with: Graham Goodwin

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by Graham Goodwin 7 June 2023 0 Comments

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by Stephen Kilbey 7 June 2023 0 Comments

PART 1 – PART 2 – PART 3 – PART 4 – PART 5 51. Kristensen tops Ickx (2005) 52. Third time lucky for Peugeot's 908 (2009) 53. Overly enthusiastic JLOC (2007) 54. GT2 car finishes P6 (2001) 55. Dalla Lana's Ford Chicane moment (2015) 56. Kolles cars impounded (2013) 57. Davidson's crash (2012) 58. The first hybrid win (2012) 59. The Team LNT Panoz Esperante wins (2006) 60. The Janos trolley dash! (2004) Previous article Back Next article 0 0