Algarve Pro Racing driver Vincent Capillaire has responded to the reports that he indirectly contributed to the clutch failure of the race-leading #7 Toyota TS050 during the Le Mans 24 Hours, that sent the then-race leading car into retirement.
On his Facebook page, Capillaire explained that he was trying to encourage Kamui Kobayashi in the #7, rather than wave him out of the pit lane. The incident occurred during a safety car period in the 10th hour of the race, when Kobayashi stopped at the end of the pit lane, being held by the red light.
He then mistook Capillaire as a marshal, and fired up the car causing a clutch failure by starting, stopping and starting the TS050 again quick succession.
“Saturday night, during the race, I was waiting to get in, with my helmet on at my pit box,” Capillaire wrote in the statement. “I wanted to show my encouragement to the leading car, stopped a few feet in front of my box.”
In the footage of the incident, the #7 Toyota is stopped at the end of the pit lane, before Capillaire – wearing his bright orange Algarve Pro overalls – runs into view and shows a thumbs up, which prompts Kobayashi to start the car.
The process of starting the car coming out of its pit box, stopping at the end of the pit lane, starting the car again in response to Capillaire, stopping because of the red light and team on the radio telling him to stop and then starting again to finally leave, damaged the clutch terminally. The car then went on to retire after being unable to return to full racing speed after the safety car period, Kobayashi was unable to crawl back to the pit lane without the car in gear.
“It was a spontaneous mark of encouragement, as it happens between drivers,” he continued. “I got a fine from the stewards for this gesture and I admit it was inappropriate.