Toyota's GT-ONE prototype project rushed into the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1998 and rewrote the expectations for aerodynamic and mechanical excellence among its factory rivals. It was gone almost as quickly after two unsuccessful attempts to win the great endurance race.
The windswept design, penned by the great Andre de Cortanze and powered by a silky-stout 3.6-liter twin-turbo V8, set pole for the 1999 race with the No. 1 chassis piloted by Martin Brundle/Emmanuel Collard/Vincenzo Sospiri but broke early in the race. After a sister entry scored a runner-up finish behind the victorious BMW V12 LMR, the fleet of GT-ONEs were silenced and eventually relegated to life as museum pieces.
That was, thankfully, until de Cortanze parted ways with the only GT-ONE that remained outside Toyota’s control. Having arranged to keep the No. 1 chassis after the 1999 race, his recent decision to sell the car opened the door to its participation in a vintage racing event, and with Formula 2 race winner Norman Nato installed behind the wheel, this glorious piece of Toyota Motorsports history ran in anger earlier this month at the Le Mans Classic.
We went for a ride with Nato around the full 8.5-mile Le Mans circuit with help from , and still marvel at how the twin-turbo V8, despite one would expect, sounds vastly different from preconceived expectations.