Take a glance at the volume – and significance – of the breakdowns at this year’s Le Mans 24hrs race, and there could be some truth in this theory.
First the more prominent of Audi’s two R18s succumbed to a turbocharger problem after only a few race laps, scuppering its chances of getting onto the podium. There were other casualties throughout the race, too, the most dramatic of which had to be the loss of power suffered by Kazuki Nakajima’s Toyota alongside the pit lane on the final lap, which stole victory from him.
So have the cars become too complex? Both Audi and Toyota moved away from different storage systems to battery systems for 2016.
Before the race, Audi’s Allan McNish talked about the changes: “This may sound like a small change, but in terms of the packaging for the car it’s very different – working with the battery is different from working with the flywheel for us, and for Toyota it’s different from working with a super capacitator.
“So we’re both working towards gaining more understanding and experience in our cars.”
And, during the race, ex-Audi racer and five times Le Mans winner, Emanuele Pirro admitted the complexity of Le Mans racers has increased. “The cars are really complex, they’re now so sophisticated that they can suit, or not suit, a particular track, or even a specific corner,” he said.
But Pirro doesn’t hold this responsible for the problems suffered by the cars this year. He puts it down to plain old-fashioned luck.
“You can never assume you’ll win at Le Mans, no matter how much you prepare. We did three 30-hour tests with the R18s before the race, but they suffered really uncommon problems. We just didn’t have the luck this year,” he said.
“The margin between winning and losing is very small,” he concluded.