Image Credit: Toyota Racing
Motorsport is all about fast cars, noise, smells and epic performances. But for every high, there is a crushing low, and that is what makes the ‘sport’ part of it so enticing. Sometimes that low is in the form of a heartbreak that seems to grab your very soul and attempt to pull it from your body, and of all those disappointments, here are the ones that affected us the most.
Le Mans 2016 – Toyota
We’ll start with the very biggest. Can there have ever been a more mind-boggling heartbreak than the end of Toyota’s challenge for victory at the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2016? Toyota had history at Le Mans, with victory snatched from its grasp in the ‘90s not once, but twice. Then on its return it had looked set for a win in 2014 when a piece of FIA-mandated monitoring equipment failed, melting through a wiring loom. Toyota saw the problem and radioed Kazuki Nakajima to come in for a quick fix, but the Japanese couldn’t hear them as the problem took out his radio and he ground to a halt.
Two years later it seemed the curse was finally over, 23 hours and 55 minutes into the race Nakajima (again) was cruising onto his penultimate lap of the race, with a clear lead over the chasing Porsche 919s. He began to slow, with the immediate assumption being that he was waiting for the second Toyota for a classic Le Mans photo finish. But then he slowed more, and the sister car passed him and sped away. And then he crossed the line to start the final lap and ground to a halt, there and then, in front of his pits. All at the circuit, drained after a 24 hour race, struggled to comprehend what was going on. Toyota execs looked on dumbfounded, Porsche jumped to celebration as they realised what had happened. A connection between intercooler and turbo had failed and the Toyota TS050 was dead stick. Nakajima climbed out into the arms of his devastated team. The final hammer blow was that, due to the rules at Le Mans, the car needed to finish a final lap and cross the line to finish, so it wasn’t even classified.