“Perhaps the universe won’t let Toyota win?”
This genuinely could be it, I feel this is the best chance I’ve had to win this race.”
That was what Anthony Davidson said to me in the garden of a picturesque pub in Northamptonshire on a sunny afternoon in 2010.
He’d just signed for Peugeot Sport to handle a 908 HDI FAP LMP1. Despite the fact the car sounded like a Thunderbird (and went like one too), he was right. Davidson genuinely did have a huge chance of landing The Big One.
Having contested Le Mans twice before in a Prodrive Ferrari and the truly superb (but was never going to win) Dbr9-engined Lola-aston Martin B09/60, Davidson finally had his shot at the top step.
Peugeot was fastest too, and comfortably out-paced Audi in qualifying to lock out the top four spots on the grid. Sadly just being fast at Le Mans isn’t enough, and none of the four 908s finished after a cocktail of turbo, suspension and electrical problems.
Davidson’s car – along with co-drivers Alex Wurz and Marc Gene – was the last one running before its alternator packed up, and the best chance so far had gone begging.
Fast forward to Davidson’s days at Toyota, which have yielded more in terms of results, barring the nightmarish 2012 campaign in which Davidson suffered back injuries after an airborne accident.
In 2013 Toyota just didn’t have the outright pace of Audi, but Davidson helped to haul the car to second place.
Then came the glory days of 2014. “This race has been cruel to me so far, I think it’s pretty fair to say that, and I definitely feel I’m owed a win at some point,” Davidson told me the month before the race, having won both opening rounds of the FIA World Endurance Championship at Silverstone and Spa.
The time was right, surely? The Toyota was by far and away the fastest car, and for once had the reliability to match. But once again luck intervened and Davidson’s car was put out of the running early on when Nicolas Lapierre crashed in heavy rain. After that though the car ran faultlessly back to third. Typical that.
Toyota’s luck in general was out that year, as the sister car led for nine hours until Kazuki Nakajima crawled to a halt in the early hours of the morning when the wiring loom burnt out. It was a failure Toyota had never seen before, and wouldn’t again.
Last year was a write-off. Both Audi and Porsche leapfrogged them by improving their hybrid systems and virtually the entire year was spent preparing for last weekend. All that hard work, redesigning and perfecting to get back into the game, and Toyota came so agonisingly close after so much effort and surely it, and Davidson, deserved more. But the wait goes on.
It’s safe to say not many have experienced the sort of emotional rollercoaster Toyota did when Nakajima again rolled to a halt, this time with just three minutes to go. Perhaps the universe just won’t let Toyota win?
Davidson’s tweet said it all: “Kazuki on the radio as he crossed the line ‘I’m ready to cry guys’. Don’t worry mate. I was already there.”
Motorsport can be a heartbreaker...
“Everything is the same on the car except for the fact that we have put AP brakes on and my dad [Colin] has built an engine on a standard head that puts out 220bhp,” explained the Billericay driver.
Modified cams and high compression pistons help to increase the power output by around 65bhp from Compact Cup spec, but Gaz suspension remains and may be upgraded as development continues.
Voyce plans to campaign the car in the 750 Motor Club Hot Hatch or Roadsports series later in the season.