Why does sports car racing have to be so cyclical in nature? When I entered this business, Group C was at its height with Porsches, Jaguars, Mercedes, Astons, Mazdas and many others all duking it out in a riotous assembly of rumbles, growls, howls, screams and shrieks. But then it got really expensive and everyone ran away, leaving a few thinly disguised formula racing cars. Group C died, but from its ashes rose the BPR and with it McLaren F1s, Porsche 911s, Ferrari F40s, Dodge Vipers and, briefly, all was well with the world.
But then once more money got in the way. Manufacturers started passing off prototypes as production cars, and sports car racing was heading for the doldrums until a load of factory teams turned up to take us to a point at Le Mans in 1999 where there were works squads from Audi, BMW, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, Panoz, and Toyota. And then just as things looked like they couldn’t get any better, they got a lot worse. We entered the era of Audi out-thinking and outspending the opposition, resulting in a run of 13 Le Mans victories in 15 seasons. Even then, remember that while one of its two losses in France was fair and square to Peugeot, in 2003 Audi didn’t send works cars to Le Mans.
And for the most part, particularly when inaudible diesels entered the fray, it got dull. Then the temptation of being able to showcase its hybrid technology meant that Porsche piled in, so did Toyota and with Audi not prepared to relinquish its territory, briefly sports car racing was as good as it had ever been. We had cars with four, six and eight cylinders, natural and forced aspiration, four- and two-wheel drive, hybrids storing energy, and all lapping in near identical times. The middle of the last decade was a golden era, but a short one. Porsche and Audi buggered off to pursue ambitions in Formula E leaving sports car racing once more in a very parlous state.