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Best Car, Worst Car, Dream Car: Manu Collard

Reflections on the an iconic Toyota and a disastrous week for Pescarolo Team

It was always going to be fascinating to find out which best, worst and dream cars featured on Manu Collard’s list after such a lengthy career spanning multiple decades at the very top of sportscar racing.

High praise indeed for Toyota’s challenger from the turn of the century and Peugeot’s Le Mans-winning chariot from the early 90s. But it will come as no surprise to find out that the Pescarolo 03 doesn’t get positive reviews… But hey, he’s one of only a handful of drivers who hasn’t nominated a Panoz for his worst car selection. Then again, Panoz is one of the few manufacturers he hasn’t driven for since he burst onto the Le Mans scene in the mid-90s…

The best car I’ve ever raced is… The Toyota GT-One

“My choice would be the GT One Toyota.

“First of all the design when you first see it, it was like an aeroplane, it was really a stunner. Inside it was really nice, the seat position was perfect and everything was close to the driver. Every switch was easy to find, and compared to what I had before it was the first time I had such a good experience in a cockpit of a sportscar.

“Now it’s normal, but back then it was the first time I had a car to drive that was well suited to the driver. A lot of thought went in.

“The first time I drove it was at Paul Ricard, straight away we felt good. It’s got so much downforce. If you look at it now it still looks amazing when you consider it’s more than 20 years old. If you put the car against a new one it still looks good.

“Physically it’s not so bad. It wasn’t easy to drive but it wasn’t hard on the drivers.

“We did about five 30-hour tests before Le Mans and had no problems. It was so reliable. But every year at Le Mans we had a small problem, it was so frustrating. We were in Paul Ricard, Spa, everywhere, no issues, then the race arrives and you have a small issue. We did so much preparation, it was crazy when I think back, then we went to the race and were caught out each time.

“I thought Toyota had so much bad luck at Le Mans that they were cursed. They should have won so many times.”

The worst car I’ve ever raced is… The Pescarolo 03

“The worst one was the last car I drove with Pescarolo in 2012. That car was horrible.

“Nobody wanted to drive it, I was the only one to drive it in the race. I was with Stuart Hall and Jean Christophe Bouillon. And Jean Christophe crashed it testing. I knew it was dangerous to drive, and told the team.

“I jumped in for a three hour test at Le Mans and said “we must be careful, this car is really bad. Under braking you can lose the rear end so easily. Jean Christophe then went out and after two laps he lost it and had a massive crash. He stopped after that, and said he wasn’t going to race it.

“Before testing at Le Mans we took it to do straight line testing to see how the downforce was, and we realised that it had none at all! We knew we would have a problem at Le Mans with it, and we confirmed that when we got to the race track, it was a complete disaster.

“I have no idea why he chose the AMR One base for this. We had the solution too with Dome too, which was a good car that year. Henri decided to try and make his own car, but it was a big mistake, it finished the team.

“In the end I started the race and was the only one to drive it. I did two hours and we started to have a problem with power steering and I nearly crashed big time at Tertre Rouge. I had massive understeer and almost went off. After that I needed to relax. Stuart was there but he had no overalls, he was not ready to drive, so we decided to stop.

“Can you imagine a car with 700 horsepower and no downforce? In a straight-line you’re going at over 300 kph and when you slow down you have no idea what is going to happen. You couldn’t trust the car at all. It was very bad. And it was a difficult week for the team too, as we had during the week a problem with the police, who came and took the car and stopped everything.

“Everything was bad, a disaster. So many bad memories. If we had two Domes, it could have been ok. I just don’t understand the decision. We expected big money from the guy behind Luxury Racing, this guy was not a great guy. He said he would bring a lot of money to help make it a good car and Henri never received it.”

“That was the toughest race weekend I’ve ever had as a driver. I wasn’t scared behind the wheel but I had to concentrate. I was thinking “At the start I was thinking ‘shit, there are only two of us, how on earth can we carry on?'”

The car I’ve always wanted to race is… The Peugeot 905

“Hmm… I guess the Peugeot 905. The V10 that was inside was amazing, the look was great too, I really liked it. It was like a Formula One car.

“I was young when it was racing, in Formula 3, and a bit too young to drive it. But at the time I really admired it, it was a big deal to have Peugeot winning Le Mans at that point.”