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When Mercedes Battled Jaguar Battled Nissan Battled Toyota Battled Porsche Battled Mazda Battled Aston Martin at Le Mans

This year’s Le Mans marked a Celica-filled win for Toyota overall. It was a historic back-to-back victory (one in which I lost $1 betting on Kobayashi to beat Alonso), but it was also one executed against no other factory-run race teams in the top prototype category. It was not always this way.

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For pretty much as long as I have watched Le Mans, I’d see two teams competing for overall victory, like Audi vs Peugeot, Audi vs Porsche, Porsche vs Toyota, whatever. We did briefly get Audi vs Porsche vs Toyota, and we did for a moment get Audi vs itself (in the form of Bentley), but mostly the top rung of the race was fought over by two rivals.

But in the peak of the Group C years, factory efforts sprung up like mushrooms next to Chernobyl. For some reason I bumped into this retrospective covering the 1989 World Sportscar Championship season in which competed:

Mercedes

Jaguar

Nissan

Toyota

Porsche

Mazda

and even Aston Martin with a very cool but sadly cut short AMR-1.

The whole thing proved unsustainable, and it was only a few years after this that the World Sportscar Championship was dissolved as factory-backed teams pulled out in a global recession. Costs had become too high anyway, the cars too advanced, and what everyone was spending ran about as much as an F1 program but only got a fraction of the air time.

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Wild racing like this may be doomed to be forever short-lived, but it is wild while it lasts.

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.

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DISCUSSION

huttersfield
codfangler

This diversity of marques in top-level “sports car” racing has happened before. I attended the 1970 Laguna Seca Can Am race and there were many brands of cars entered. If the web site I found is correct, the marques entered included: McLaren, Titanium Ti, Lola, March, BRM, Gemie, Burnett, Ford, McKee, Ferrari, Chaparral, Porsche, McLaren Elva, and Mac’s It Special. Some of these cars were so obscure that, even on the day of the race, I did not know that they were there. The only Ferrari did not finish and the only Porsche did not start. Engines were not as diverse as cars, most of the entrants used large, and loud, Chevrolet V-8s, including all 17 finishers.

I don’t think we are likely to see that much variety in top level racing soon. Back in 1970, the McLaren factory team used two stalls at the local BMC dealership to do their final race preparation. Today a team at that level would probably have, at least, a semi-trailer full of high tech equipment to prepare and maintain two cars through a race weekend. Not many entities have the financial resources to fund these efforts and few of them are willing to do so.

I hope that we see more manufacturers in all types of auto racing, My personal preference would be to see the victorious return of the Mac’s It Special to big-time racing.