Toyota are the undoubted favourites this year at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Competing as the only factory hybrid, the race is certainly theirs for the taking.
Though they have lost the last couple – ripping defeat from the jaws of victory. So it could be said that the pressure this year is intense. But Jose Maria Lopez the build up and expectations are the same.
“From my perspective it hasn’t changed much. We still want the same result. We still want to win Le Mans. Le Mans – if you do it alone is hard.”
As he says, and Toyota knows better than anyone, you have to beat the odds – and beat your own luck – to take the victory.
“It is a very long race and it is a good race. Anything can happen so pressure of winning and the pressure to win here is always there.”
But as the drivers and the team are doing something that most of us would love to do, it is important to keep perspective.
They are the kings of competition – particularly true for any factory backed car. But there is more to it than just trying to win.
You have to stop and realise where you are and what you are doing.
For me, I try to be focused on my job and to enjoy it. It is a beautiful race. It is good to enjoy it a little bit.”
But Toyota, they do have to prepare unlike anyone else in the field. No one has eyes on them like they do. No one has the weight of expectation like they do.
Needless to say, they are working with the German and Japanese precision that reflect the team’s home base and that of the manufacturer.
We are prepared. We knew all preparation we had to do and we did it. Now it is the race and we will put that in practice and hope that it all goes right.
Time will only tell if it all pays off for Toyota and if the monkey is finally off their back.
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By Sam Tickell, photos from Paul Foster, June 2018
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