It’s 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.

Phoenix’s 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 laps.

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.
Malcolm Cracknell


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