Video footage has emerged of the bizarre pit lane incident that ultimately led to the retirement of the race-leading No. 7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid in last weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Pole-sitter Kamui Kobayashi had pitted while under the race’s second safety car period in the 10th hour and was signaled out of the pit lane by a driver, in an orange and black race suit nearly identical to the design of the marshals.
The driver, Algarve Pro Racing’s Vincent Capillaire, ran across the pit lane and gave Kobayahsi a thumbs-up sign.
Confusion over the radio ensued and, with the Japanese driver having to stop and restart his LMP1 hybrid multiple times, it resulted in terminal clutch failure, according to technical director Pascal Vasselon.
“In this case he has seen a marshal telling him to go, he went,” Vasselon told Sportscar365. “From our side, we told him stop because the safety car queue was coming, and it was not possible.
“There has been, as you can imagine, some confusion. Start, stop, start, stop.
“And the problem is that he was at the pit exit, so he was in pit mode where we started in electric, which is like the car was, he was in a mode which normally should not be used, so he has done several restarts with the clutch and the combustion engine.
“The clutch is not made at all to do that. The clutch is to start the combustion engine with the car is at speed; it’s not to start the complete car.
“So he had burned the clutch because he has been thrown into a situation which should not exist.”
Kobayashi attempted to bring the No. 7 Toyota back to the pits under its own power but was ultimately forced to abandon the car near the Porsche Curves.
Capillaire, meanwhile, released a statement on his Facebook page, regretting he made the gesture, which he was fined for.
“I wanted to show my encouragement to the leading car, [which was] stopped at the red light a few meters in front of my box,” he wrote.
“It was a spontaneous [sign of] encouragement as it happens between drivers… I admit it was inopportune. I regret that.”
Vasselon said the incident was “the most amazing problem” they had in the race, which saw all three Toyotas run into issues and two retire before the halfway mark.
“Normally, our drivers are used to the human action dominate signs,” he said.
“For example, they are always told if you see a marshal waiving a yellow, it dominates the board… It’s frustrating.”
The No. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid went on to claim overall honors, despite having spent more than one hour in the garage with a front motor generator unit failure, in the highest attrition rate for LMP1 hybrids since the launch of the regulations in 2014.