happened before and will happen again. Sometimes it happens between
team-mates! At the 1976 Nurburgring 300 Kms, Patrick Depailler and
Jean-Pierre Jabouille clashed at the North Curve on lap 1 and both
of the Renault-Alpines were eliminated.
GA race recently saw a simple ‘whack-up-the-back’, which
eliminated the Kodak Doran pole-sitter – but Turn 1 on the
opening lap of Petit Le Mans was like neither of these incidents.
Tom Kjos has let it rest, here,
as a ‘simple’ racing accident – and in truth there’s
no other way to put it to bed. It was unfortunate, highly unfortunate,
but racers will be racers, and both Weaver and Lehto saw their chance
to pass the Zytek, and they went for it.
The fact of the matter is that for one of these
endurance races to be looked back upon as a classic, it needs an
LMP1 race to remember. Nurburgring’s LMES event had just that
– but although it had moments of note in the other classes,
none of the other three (classes) were classics.
But GT1 and GT2 certainly stepped up to the plate
to offset any disappointment among the prototypes at Road Atlanta.
Both were ‘hell-for-leather’ races, with drama galore
– and although neither had an ultimately ‘very, very
close’ finish after nine and a quarter hours, why should we
expect such a thing? A lap of Road Atlanta is but a blink after
394 of them, and even a hint of an error from #4 or #31 would have
seen them lose their class wins.
It’s endurance racing – and over the
decades, spectators haven’t expected a clutch of cars on the
lead lap at the end. There are so many ways that the exploits of
Minassian, Shimoda, Collard, McNish, Lehto, Kristensen and Weaver
(for example) are directly connected, through the evolution of the
different series, to the accomplishments of our heroes of the past.
Whether it was a great wet-weather drive by Rodriguez, at Brands
Hatch in 1970 (think ahead to McNish, Ortelli, Minassian and Campbell-Walter
at Silverstone in August), or a recovery drive such as Rodriguez’s
again, or Ickx and Regazzoni at the same circuit a year later (Lehto
and Werner pulling back nearly ten laps at Petit Le Mans stands
up well in comparison), or a good little ‘un hanging onto
the big ‘uns, as Ickx and Regazzoni did throughout 1971 (which
compares very well to Jon Field in his LMP2, chasing the LMP1s)
Alternatively, there’s the Rolex Series race
at Watkins Glen recently, with 17 cars on the lead lap after 66
It’s simply a matter of choice.
What was it Scott Atherton said? “The rest
are pretending,” which he qualified by suggesting that perhaps
he was being a little harsh.
There was no pretending at Petit Le Mans 2005. Other
than the lap 1 crash, perhaps the only real disappointments were
the delays (and retirement of one) of the Dyson Lolas, and GT contenders
going a lap down. BAM!’s Tim Munday had a view on this before
the race, suggesting that “it’s just crazy for GT cars
to lose a lap simply because you’re caught behind the lead
car when a caution comes out.”
George Howard-Chappell would probably agree with
that statement, after his #57 lost a lap, which was the crucial
moment in deciding the GT1 honours. But has anyone thought of an
alternative to the current Safety Car procedure?
40,000+ fans went home having seen a memorable event
on October 1. It’s not one they’ll forget for a long
time, and it was almost all for the right reasons. From the intensity
of #1’s fightback, to the intensity of the GT1 and GT2 battles,
through to the intensity of Jon Field hanging onto the LMP1s –
there was much to admire. Now add Porsche’s LMP2 to the mix
at Laguna Seca.