The first corner- the Dunlop Chicane just before the Dunlop Bridge -of the opening lap of the 1999 Le Mans 24 hour race with a pair of works Toyotas leading a Mercedes CLK followed by the eventual winner -the BMW V12 of Martini , Dalmas and Winkelhock .Again one of the Toyotas came home second -- a lap in arrears of the BMW.
Toyota made a big effort to win Le Mans over many years but they were often the bridesmaid and never the bride .They had top driver combinations and some years they had the winning pace but not absolute reliability and other years they had the reliability but were just off the pace .
Toyota have had little success at a works team level in international motor sport apart from the World Rally Championship .Their formula one effort in this decade cost the equivalent of the GDP of a medium sized African country with nothing to show for it at the end .Their mistake was probably to do it as a freestanding "clean sheet of paper" project based in Germany rather than go to the formula one " golden triangle" in middle England where all the F1 magicians reside.Even the BMW sports car shown above , the race winner, was constructed by Williams F1 in middle England. Now Toyota have vacated all forms of motor sport -not surprisingly after that experience.
This photo was taken from a public spectator enclosure which sadly has now been removed - due to safety concerns .It was always very crowded because it gave an amazing view of the action .
The first lap at Le Mans is always very fraught .The drivers want to go as quickly as possible and get stuck into the race but tyres are still cool particularly at the first corner and there is the overriding concern of keeping the cars on the island .Going off on the first lap of the 24 hour race is about as bad a career move as a professional racing driver can make . So you have this slightly tentative high speed action .Taken on a Canon EOS 5 SLR with a pretty short lens .