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:

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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.

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Raphael Orlove

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.