Gérard Larrousse and Toyota honoured at Le Mans 24 Hours

At the 80th Le Mans 24 Hours the Automobile Club de l’Ouest has decided to honour in the best possible manner a manufacturer making its Le Mans comeback, and a driver who has left his mark on motor car racing.Thus, the start of the race will be given by Mr. Takeshi Uchiyamada, Vice President and Director of the Toyota Motor Corporation, the man who when he was an engineer was the driving force behind the development of the first-generation Prius. This car has made the Japanese manufacturer, which won back the world no. 1 motor manufacturers’ spot in the first three months of 2012, the uncontested leader in the sales of hybrid cars throughout the world.

Not only is Toyota coming back to Le Mans, a race in which the manufacturer has not competed since 1999, with two hybrid-powered cars the nos 7 and 8 TS030s, but it has also agreed to speed up its programme by entering one of these cars in the FIA World Endurance Championship, of which the ACO is the promoter and organiser, in its first year. Thus, an official representative of Toyota fully deserved to be entrusted with the prestigious job of starting the race on 16th June 2012. Mr. Uchiyamada will come specially from Japan for the occasion.

On 14th June at 11h00, Gérard Larrousse will be awarded the Spirit of Le Mans by the new ACO President Pierre Fillon for his past association with the Le Mans 24 Hours and also for his tireless efforts in motor racing in general.This prestigious trophy has been awarded since 2001 by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest to people who have served the Spirit of Le Mans.

Larrousse scored a double in the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1973, 1974 in eight starts, and was an eclectic driver able to shine in endurance and rallies with a brief foray into Formula 1. He then became a team manager, and he was at the head of Renault Sport when the French make scored a memorable win in the Sarthe in 1978 with Didier Pironi and Jean-Pierre Jaussaud in the legendary Renault-Alpine A442B. Today, Larrousse continues to spread the renown of the Le Mans 24 Hours as he works with the International Club of Le Mans 24-Hours Drivers, one of the most exclusive clubs in the world of which he is the secretary.

In addition, this distinction will be awarded to a man who was one of the heroes of the Matra saga celebrated this year by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest. Forty years ago the French manufacturer scored the first of its three victories in the race thanks to Henri Pescarolo and Graham Hill. The following year Larrousse replaced Hill alongside Pescarolo and scored his two wins as a driver.

He will be at the wheel of one of the four Matras, some of which have been specially restored, that will give a demonstration as one of the curtain raisers to the 2012 Le Mans 24 Hours between 12h35 and 12h50.

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