Photo: DPPI/Onroak Automotive

Quadruple amputee Frederic Sausset debuts, completes Le Mans


On what was otherwise a forgettable day for Onroak Automotive – 10 of its 11 entered chassis finished the race, but none higher than sixth in the 23-car LMP2 class – quadruple amputee Frederic Sausset provided both the brand’s and one of the race’s most inspiring stories.

Sausset lost all four limbs due to a bacterial infection several years ago, but he did not lose his spirit.

Driving a modified Morgan Nissan LMP2 car, Sausset could be inserted and “ejected” out of the seat using a lift in the experimental Garage 56 entry for the race.

Prior Garage 56 entries focused on innovative technology (the original Nissan DeltaWing and Nissan ZEOD RC were the two past Garage 56 runners in 2012 and 2014, respectively), while the adaption of the car to allow someone with no limbs to drive it made this car the entry this year.

Forgetting the fact the car and driver not only started, more importantly and perhaps impressively, it finished.

Sausset became the first quad amputee to drive at Le Mans. During the week, he drove 69 laps of the 8.47-mile Circuit de la Sarthe and posted a best lap time of 4:00.656, which was ahead of 14 other drivers (all but one in GTE-Am machinery, and ahead of one LMP2 driver, Remy Striebig in a standard Morgan Nissan).

Together with co-drivers Christophe Tinseau and Jean-Bernard Bouvet, the No. 84 SRT41 by OAK Racing entry finished 38th overall and completed 315 laps, thus becoming the first Garage 56 entry to finish the race. The trio was honored in a special post-race podium ceremony.

“I also want to congratulate Frédéric Sausset, as well as all those around him, especially his wife, for this exploit which is a magnificent lesson in living,” Onroak Automotive president Jacques Nicolet, a Le Mans regular who wasn’t driving himself this year, said in a release.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans

LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.