There Lots of Ways to Lose a Race...

Anyone who has been around motorsports knows there are numerous ways to lose a big race. Mistaking a fellow competitor for a track official is a new one to add to the list. That's exactly what happened to an ill-fated Toyota Racing team at this year's 24 Hour of Le Mans. At the previous year's event in France, the Toyota petro-hybrid had victory in sight when the TS050 coasted to a stop while leading the race at the 23 hour and 55 minute mark. A Toyota team car took second in class but again victory had eluded the automotive giant.

Toyota had high hopes to stand on the top step of the podium at this year's 24 Hours. After all, Kamui Kobayashi had put the Toyota TS050 Hybrid on the pole. With one of the fastest cars in the world and a favorite to win, the Toyota team ran at the front of the field for almost ten hours before a bizarre pit road event ended their dream. A ninth-hour caution had brought out the safety car. Unlike NASCAR, at the 24 Hours of Le Mans pit road is immediately open for cars to enter under yellow, but cars are not allowed to re-enter the race until the safety car has exited the track.

Kobayashi was waiting at the red light near the end of pit road ready to return to action. Suddenly, someone in an orange and black driver's suit ran up to the front of his Toyota TS050 and gave the Japanese driver a thumbs up. Unfortunately, Vincent Capillaire's race suit was almost a spitting image of the fire suits that the pit road officials were wearing. Kobayashi mistook the gesture for a marshal's signal that he could go. When the team saw that the pit road light was still red, they shouted instructions to stop over the headset. Kobayashi had to engage the clutch a couple of extra times before he could stop the car.

After eventually getting the green light, the clutch on Kobayashi's Toyota was fried. In a prototype sports car, the clutch is typically only used as the driver exits the pit box while the car's engine is operating in a different electronic mode. The Algarve Pro Racing team driver's inopportune signal may have robbed Toyota of yet another victory in a race that they so want to win. Capillaire stated on his Facebook page that his gesture was an honest mistake but the race stewards fined the Algarve driver for his antics. Fortunately, racers have short memories and Toyota has already announced their intent to return to Le Mans in 2018.

That is worth an E3 Spark Plug's thumbs up...

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