Jose Maria Lopez says his clash with a GTE-Am class Aston Martin ‘happened really quickly’ and ultimately dashed hopes of victory in Friday’s 1000 Miles of Sebring for the No. 7 Toyota crew.
The Argentinean was forced to take evasive action in the fifth hour of the race when attempting to overtake the No. 90 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage GTE of Jonny Adam in Turn 15, resulting in contact and damage to the LMP1 hybrid.
Nearly three minutes was lost in the pits when repairs to the No. 7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid’s floor were made, which gave clear sailing to the sister pole-sitting No. 8 entry to claim its first victory since last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“I went inside into Turn 14 and there was a blue Aston Martin there,” Lopez told Sportscar365. “I was a bit late, but also saw at that point, he crossed the line very quickly so I didn’t really have the space.
“I had to cut the corner, I got the curb, the car jumped and when I landed, I landed with my rear into his front.
“I damaged the back of the car and we also had a pipe that got loose and I lost performance.
“Fortunately I think it was not big [repairs] and we could continue, which is the main thing. We kept the second position.
“It’s a shame for my teammates and for everyone that works but things happen. It’s not the first time and not going to be the last time.”
Lopez’s co-driver Kamui Kobayashi said post-race that the car was “really damaged” and made it difficult to drive, which relegated the crew to a distant second place finish.
The former WTCC champion believes they could have taken the fight to the No. 8 car had the incident not occurred.
“My first two stints were OK in terms of pace,” Lopez said. “I was losing a little bit in traffic. I was not in the rhythm, let’s say and was struggling a bit.
“The second one was better and I was catching Seb [Buemi].
“It was very close. Through the whole race, we were always between one, two, ten seconds, all the time there. It was going to be like that until the end, like all the races so far.
“The cars have been very close, competitive. There’s a very similar pace between the drivers. I expect the same in Spa and Le Mans.”
The win for Fernando Alonso, Sebastien Buemi Kazuki Nakajima has seen the No. 8 crew extend their lead in the World Drivers’ Championship by 15 points heading into the final two rounds of the 2018-19 season.
Lopez, however, is not giving up their title hopes just yet.
“There’s still two races,” he said. “We’re still fighting for the championship and still looking good. It’s going to be very tight and difficult to the end.”