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24h Le Mans
It was born to win, but the 24 Hours of Le Mans wouldn't cooperate. Yet, the Toyota TS020 GT-One left its mark on the legendary race, and Emmanuel Collard was overjoyed to see the car at the Le Mans Classic this year for a demonstration of cars from the 1990s and 2000s.
"I am very surprised," begins Emmanuel Collard. "The crowd is barely stopping for the magnificent Bentley Speed 3 winner at the 2003 24 Hours of Le Mans, but instead is coming straight to our area to take photos of the Toyota GT-One even though it never won. That's really incredible." But it's true, as evidenced by the throngs of people surrounding the Japanese car, the only one in the world in the hands of a private collector. It had been given to its "father" André de Cortanze who also designed the Peugeot 905 winner in 1992 and 1993, while all others have remained the property of the Japanese manufacturer.
"André developed a very modern car for its time," continues the 1988 karting world champion. "But driving the GT-One at the great 24 Hours circuit, I could tell how much progress has been made in 20 years. I had forgotten about the vibrations, characteristic of older model cars, that do not happen with today's racing cars. Now you take the Porsche Curves at full speed which would have been impossible with the TS020 though it was an excellent car."
It was an outstanding car, there is no question, but it never reached its goal of giving Toyota a first win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. "In 1998 and 1999, we conducted several 30-hour testing sessions," recalls Emmanuel Collard. "We experienced no problems of any kind, and as drivers we were really hoping for a great result. But no. Things were completely different during the race. In 1998, trouble with the gearbox started early on and we had to make a tremendous effort just to keep up, but then Martin Brundle had an accident and we were forced to retire. In 1999, we clinched the pole and were among the leaders up until an hour from the finish. We had a flat tire and Martin Brundle tried to return to the pit too fast which damaged the car. Fortunately, the Japanese trio saved the day by finishing in second place. After all the bad luck at Le Mans, it's truly great that Toyota finally won the race this year."
...a Le Mans win that barely eluded "Manu" Collard several times, most notably in 2005 when he finished second with Pescarolo Sport.
PHOTO (Copyright - Dominique Breugnot/ACO): The 1999 Toyota GT-One driven by Emmanuel Collard at the Le Mans Classic 6-8 July 2018.