Lopez "cried back to pits" after puncture drama cost Le Mans win
|By Jack Cozens, Jamie Klein||Sunday, June 16th 2019, 17:02 GMT|
Toyota's Jose Maria Lopez says the puncture that cost him and his team-mates a probable Le Mans 24 Hours victory made him "cry all the way back to the pits".
Lopez held a comfortable lead in the #7 Toyota TS050 HYBRID he shared with Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi approaching the final hour when he picked up the puncture and pitted.
But a sensor issue prompted Toyota to change the right-front tyre instead of the left-rear during that stop, meaning Lopez had to nurse the car back to the pits for a second time.
The delay allowed the sister #8 car being driven by Kazuki Nakajima that went on to win the race to move into the lead.
When asked by Autosport how he had felt as he toured slowly to the pits to get the correct tyre changed, Lopez said: "I cannot describe it.
"I cried all the way back to the pits - it's so painful. But it's like this."
Lopez lost less time before his first visit to the pits because the pressure in the punctured tyre had not decreased dramatically.
But it fell below 0.5bar on Lopez's outlap from the first stop, which forced him to drive at a slower speed to prevent the tyre delaminating.
Lopez explained that he had been told by the team the sensor would be reset as he left the pits, but that he realised "a few metres" after exiting the pitlane that he still had a puncture.
"We left a new set of tyres for the stint because we wanted to minimise the chances of [a puncture] happening," he continued.
"It's really strange, because it's the last few stages, you're not taking any kerbs, you try to do everything perfectly.
"[After] half of the lap [before the first pitstop], I saw the alarm. It wasn't too bad, because it didn't go too low so I could still go about 200km/h, so that's why I didn't lose much.
"The problem is that when I exited again with a puncture [the pressure] was too low, and I was risking too much to blow the tyre up and lose everything.
"So I had to go back to the pits at no more than 50km/h."