“Beyond the years, I am still here”: applause for Pechito López and glory for Ferrari at Le Mans

“Beyond the years, I am still here”: applause for Pechito López and glory for Ferrari at Le Mans
“Beyond the years, I am still here”: applause for Pechito López and glory for Ferrari at Le Mans

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The visor of the helmet raised and the attempt with the gloved right hand to wipe away the tears of emotion that were moistening the eyes, was the image of Jose Maria Breast Lopez that the camera offered on board of the No. 7 car of Toyota Gazoo Racing, after the checkered flag fell in the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans. A long-winded race, of 311 laps and with multiple scenarios that celebrated, like last year, Ferrari, and that showed the validity and hierarchy of the Argentine driver in the most sought-after class of the World Endurance Championship..

The Scuderiawith the crew made up of Nicklas Nielsen, Antonio Fuoco and Miguel Molina in car No. 50, won the victory, with a difference of 14s221/1000 over the prototype of the Japanese factory that had the figure of the Cordoban, from 41 years old, to the pilot who fueled the illusion of an epic result, after the unfortunate episodes that occurred for the structure inside and outside the mythical 13.5 kilometer and 38 curves layout of La Sarthe. Second place is a reward for effort and resiliencealso a bittersweet drink for Breast, who entered through the window to sit in the seat of a Hypercar, but who returned with his talent the trust placed in him by the Japanese, who chose him over the skill of the young promise Ritomo Mitaya to form the formation along with two former Formula 1 like Kamui Kobayashi and Nyck de Vries. “Beyond the years, I still am. That for me is a personal pride“, noted the Argentine.

One win, four second places, one third place and two retirements are the statistics of Pechito López’s eight participations in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Days of mixed emotions agitated Pechito López, who had the race scheduled on his calendar, although in a Lexus of the LMGT3 category. The decision to hire De Vries in 2023 to accompany Kobayashi – in addition to being a driver, he is the main team of the Toyota Gazoo Racing team in the World Endurance Championship – and Mike Conway in the No. 7 car of the Japanese factory relegated the Cordoban, who preferred to remain under the umbrella of the Japanese house rather than look for a seat in another team that presented cars in Hypercar. The seven seasons at the highest level, including a victory at Le Mans and two world titles in the WEC (World Endurance Championship), an attractive letter of introduction for the multiplicity of brands that take part in the World Endurance Championship, among which Ferrari, Porsche, Cadillac stand out – Alpine, BMW, Lamborghini and Peugeot appear in a second step -, although the Argentine was uninterested in playing it.

Fate had a twisted turn for his return to the seat of car No. 7: the accident and injury of his friend and former teammate Conway, while together they were doing a bicycle training session, brought him back and put all his talent to the test in one week. : a quick readaptation, because time was of the essence, and going out to the track to teach effectiveness behind the wheel in training motivated the confirmation of Mitaya, who is the reserve driver and who did the practice in Hypercar during the summer. The complexity of the 24 Hours of Le Mans determined that Toyota Gazoo Racing will lean towards Pechito’s experience. “As if he drove the car yesterday. He worked motivated and very hard to catch up with all the systems“We are sure that there will be no problems in the race,” said technical chief David Floury, satisfied.

For the second consecutive year, Ferrari triumphs at the 24 Hours of Le Mans; the Scuderia accumulates 11 victories in the legendary World Endurance eventJeremias Gonzalez – AP

The Hyperpole It turned out to be a catastrophe for the No. 7 car: under the command of Kobayashi, it was penalized for causing the red flag and the punishment resulted in the loss of time – it had set the fourth best time – and the delay to the last place on the grid in the Hypercar class. The mentality and positive spirit of Breast shined after the sanction: “It doesn’t change much, It is a very long race and there is no need to be worried or disappointed”, he commented. The path of thorns continued with the incident during the Warm Up, in which De Vries ran over the Lexus GT3 class that braked suddenly and caused the Dutch driver to spin, causing damage to the front of the car. With the starting flag in sight – it was rehearsed by French soccer star Zinedine Zidane – the preview did not show the best performance of the crewmates.

Without being part of the starting crew of the World Endurance Championship calendar, José María Pechito López was the driver who turned the most in the Toyota Gazoo Racing car No. 7: the Córdoban man tested 115 laps of a 13.5 kilometer circuitGUILLAUME SOUVANT – AFP

The race, however, discovered them at another frequency and Breast López was the flag. “A very tough race, but he finished with the satisfaction of having given everything, of coming from behind in difficult conditions. That the team left me so many hours in the car because of the pace I was bringing is a source of pride for me, it is a way to perhaps say goodbye to this race in this category.. It is also very exciting to receive the checkered flag,” commented the man from Córdoba in a conversation with Motorsport.com.

The competition was a sum of situations that caused ups and downs in the classifier, between accidents, slow zone, the hours of rain that determined that Race Control imposed the Safety Car for four hours and 37 minutes in the early morning, the incidents of punctures that modified strategies by making an extra stop in the pits…To that, car No. 7 added the error by forgetting to remove the tearoffs –plastic that covers the windshield-, and a couple of power failures that were replicated and resulted in loss of time… “We were in a position where we had to go to the limit all the time: we had three punctures, we lost three minutes in yellow zones… Always on the attack, the pace was“, the evaluation of Breast of how it was run and the setbacks that had to be overcome.

“I would say we put up a good fight. We recovered from many, many, ups and downs: starting from behind, the weather and the competition that was always tight. Was A great race, one of the most difficult I have experienced and I am proud of what I did, what my teammates and the team did. We always kept fighting: if something happened to us, we kept fighting, we kept believing and we were very close to achieving it.. I have to be happy about that,” analyzed Pechito, who in the preview indicated that he wanted to enjoy the race and not suffer: “I don’t want to have the luxury of going badly, that’s why I try to enjoy every moment and every time I I get into the car. Always at this level, most of the time you look back and you find that feeling that the pressures don’t let you enjoy yourself. The result may or may not be, but on Sunday I want to feel fulfilled, to have that opportunity that when I left last year I thought I was missing,” he commented in a press conference with Latin American media. If he had any doubts about his task, he fulfilled it more than satisfactorily.

The Ferrari No. 50 attempted three fewer stops than the Toyota Gazoo Racing car No. 7 in the 24 Hours of Le Mans; the difference on the track was barely 14 secondsJeremias Gonzalez – AP

With an even distribution of turns, Breast López led the crew with 115 laps; Kobayashi did 101 laps and De Vries the remaining 96. The last turn had the Córdoban in the seat, attacking in each lap to the extreme that in the end a spin caused him to lose time on the clock, although not the second position in the race. clue. With the communication from the wall that the Ferrari No. 50 would not make any more stops, Toyota’s chances of victory – with the No. 7 car, which was twice at the head of the race – were consumed just as the energy of the Ferrari 499P model, which finished with only 2%!

José María Pechito López performed an outstanding performance by replacing his friend and former teammate Mike Conway; The Argentine driver led the crew of the Toyota Gazoo Racing car No. 7 in the 24 Hours of Le MansJeremias Gonzalez – AP

Legend says that no one wins Le Mans, but Le Mans chooses the winners. For Ferrari it was the eleventh victory and repeat after 59 years in consecutive seasons. A suffered success, because he also endured 10-second penalties and an order to return to the pit, because the door had been left open when he retraced the last stint. The car with the badge Prancing Horse identified with No. 50, he galloped to the checkered flag and left behind a high-ranking rival, who ran with the ambition of victory and showing signs of strength. Pechito understood that, if it was a Last Dance In the elite, retirement had to be with grandeur.

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