Toyota's Anthony Davidson wary of Le Mans 24 Hours curse
|By Stephen Lickorish||Friday, June 16th 2017, 14:21 GMT|
Toyota driver Anthony Davidson admits it feels like he and Toyota are dealing with a Le Mans 24 Hours curse, despite qualifying first and second for the 2017 race.
The manufacturer has missed out on a number of likely Le Mans wins, most dramatically last year when Davidson's Toyota hit trouble with just six minutes remaining, on course for a comfortable win.
Davidson was also in Peugeot's line-up in 2010, when it had a clear pace advantage over Audi, but ultimately failed to get any of its three works cars home.
Asked by Autosport about a possible curse, Davidson said: "It does feel like that - and for me it's not just with this car.
"You've just got to try and remain emotionless through the whole thing, but it's hard.
"I'm more prepared for failure than success but maybe that's just me being pessimistic."
Davidson said it was only in the final minutes that he started to get excited about potentially winning 12 months ago.
"I only put my suit on for the podium with 10 minutes to go last year... it was like I had a premonition," he said.
Despite Toyota claiming pole with a record-breaking lap from Kamui Kobayashi in the sister #7 car, Davidson reckons Toyota will be far less dominant in the race.
Toyota has downplayed the time Kobayashi produced because of the lack of traffic he encountered during his lap and the track having optimum grip levels after support-race action.
The closest Porsche qualified 2.468 seconds slower than Kobayashi, and 2015 winner Nick Tandy estimates the real gap could be around one second.
Tandy believes the difference between Porsche and Toyota could be much smaller in hot conditions.
"I'm expecting Porsche to be much closer but we probably have got the advantage," said Davidson, who will start second.
By Gary Watkins (@gazzasportscars)
1994 - THE GEAR LINKAGE
Toyota was represented as a factory at Le Mans every year bar one between 1987 and 1993, but it finally came close to victory the following year with a privateer entry.
The 94CV, an updated version of the V8-powered car that first raced in 1989, run by the Japanese SARD team was on course for victory in the hands of Eddie Irvine, Mauro Martini and Jeff Krosnoff when the gear linkage broke with 90 minutes left.
Krosnoff was able to make a quick fix to get back to the pits but the car ended up second behind the winning Dauer 962LM Porsche.
1998 - THE MISSING SUMP PLUG
Toyota might have won in the first year of its most concerted Le Mans campaign yet.
The GT-One, developed in the same Cologne factory as today's TS050, had a performance advantage and the car driven by Thierry Boutsen, Ralf Kelleners and Geoff Lees was in front by 40s when the gearbox failed with 80 minutes to go.
The car had already undergone two changes of gear cluster and it appears that the sump plug had not been correctly tightened at some point. A lack of gearbox oil did for Toyota.
1999 - THE TYRE BLOWOUT
The fleet of GT-Ones fought two separate battles with the ultimately-triumphant BMW V12 LMR.
The entry in which Allan McNish had joined Boutsen and Kelleners was battling with the leading BMW when it was punted out in the night. The subsequent retirement of the best of the BMWs turned the race into the straight fight between the surviving cars from the two marques.
Ukyo Katayama, Toshio Suzuki and Keiichi Tsuchiya were course for a narrow victory before sustaining a tyre blow-out after being forced over the kerbs by a privateer BMW.
2014 - THE MELTING SENSOR
Toyota had a narrow but stable advantage over Audi during the night when a problem with an FIA sensor stranded Kazuki Nakajima out on the track.
Toyota knew it had a glitch and had just called the TS040 HYBRID in which the Japanese driver was joined by Alex Wurz and Stephane Sarrazin into the pits. The car was a few kilometres away when the sensor's loom burnt out.
The fix would have taken a couple of minutes, or about the lead it had over the Audi that went on to win.
2016 - THE AIRLINE FAILURE
The Toyota TS050 HYBRID driven by Sebastien Buemi, Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima came back from a slow start to challenge the leading Porsche on Saturday evening.
The Japanese car prevailed in a thrilling fight and looked destined for victory when Nakajima lost power on the Mulsanne with six minutes to go. A connection in an airline between turbocharger and intercooler had fractured.
The car finished second on the road, but wasn't classified because its last lap was outside the six-minute maximum.