Taylor has firsthand experience with Le Mans.
“I drove there 13 years in a row,” he recalled. “I won in the prototype class in a Ferrari in 1998. I’ve probably done it 20 times. It’s a place I know so well, but I have mixed feelings about going there as a driver. The next best thing would be to win it as a team owner. I love Daytona, I’ve won five now, two times with me (in a Ferrari) and three out of four years with my team in a Cadillac. We’ve won Sebring twice or three times. So, I’m pretty content with where I am, but I’d like one more chance to go to Le Mans.”
But now Taylor waits. Not only has racing shut down, so are all the manufacturers.
“Think about the car business, production lines are stopped, there’s nobody working on cars even in my own shop,” Taylor noted. “It’s really a tough situation right now. So, if I was a guessing man, by 2023 when everybody gets a chance to recover, I can’t think any manufacturer not wanting to go to Le Mans.”
Mazda already has a world presence and was the only Asian manufacturer to win at Le Mans before Toyota’s recent domination of the event.
Nelson Cosgrove took over Mazda’s motorsports program when Doonan left for IMSA at the end of last year.
“Obviously, it’s pretty exciting,” Cosgrove said. “Until the rules are in draft form, it will be hard for any of us (manufacturers) to comment on what our plans are. There have been meetings. What we know from the working group has had good turnout. There are two different groups, Mazda manufacturers and technical partners. We’re looking at overall powertrain levels and what they look like. Those are big-picture discussions.
“The work is ongoing, and in my opinion, super positive,” Cosgrove added. “I’ve been in a lot of sanctioning body meetings over the years and these are some of the most optimistic and forward-looking that you could have.”
Cosgrove notes that the pandemic’s effects ripple everywhere.
“It’s a struggle with the supply chain. It’s hard to think about how to restart. There’s nothing going on. There’s so much of this stuff that comes from northern Italy (e.g., Dallara) and that’s just been shut off,” Cosgrove explained. “All the people that do the composites and wiring and really well-thought-of machine shops that supply a lot of people in the world. A lot of the Formula One stuff, the NASCAR stuff, comes from shops in that region.
“There are shops here, in Mooresville N.C., that are open and doing well, but it would be a struggle from the supply chain. It would be a hard process (now). We can say we’re going racing this year and whenever we restart it all depends on the travel arrangements. A lot of people in our engine group and a lot of our mechanics come to the races from England.”
Cosgrove sees LMDh as a breakthrough.
“If you’re a company like ours, you want to compete against other great brands,” he said. “We have great competition in DPi but you want this to be even bigger with double-digit numbers of manufacturers. From a competition standpoint, I think it could be really good to have this program. I don’t know what that does to the GT cars (GTE/GTLM), but some may choose to join LMDh. It’s a unique thing.”
The question remains — when?
“Well, I feel that the automakers will speak,” Doonan said. “Everyone’s business has been impacted. There’s a lot of enthusiasm around it and a lot of manufacturers have done their own studies. They want to keep the momentum going and have to rethink what their timing will be. We’re going to continue to work with them to understand what that timing will be.”
Stay tuned … and remember patience is a virtue.