Geoff Lees and Hitoshi Ogawa claimed Toyota’s first World Sportscar Championship victory in the 1992 opener at Monza, a race in which the Japanese marque was a firm underdog against Peugeot’s 905B.

After Jaguar and Mercedes withdrew from the championship, the 1992 season was designed as a season-long Peugeot versus Toyota battle. But after its triumph at Monza, where Tony Southgate’s new TS010 was the only classified as Yannick Dalmas crushed the leading Peugeot he shared with Derek Warwick almost within sight of the flag, it never crossed again the first step and Peugeot swept the remaining five races.

Warwick and Dalmas took the title, while Ogawa was tragically killed in a Japanese Formula 3000 crash at Suzuka less than a month after winning at the same track.

The world championship collapsed at the end of the season, after only eight cars appeared at the Magny-Cours season finale, and was not revived until 2012. Toyota was present, but not the winner of the 2009 24 Hours of Le Mans Peugeot – the French brand having canceled its LMP1 program on the eve of the first season of the WEC.

As Peugeot makes its long-awaited WEC debut with the 9X8, here’s the story of the brand’s last fight at Monza with Toyota on a remarkable day in April 1992.

Derek Warwick applauds as Hitoshi Ogawa and Geoff Lees celebrate victory

Picture by: Motorsport Images

The weather had improved steadily all weekend and a physically demanding race was in prospect as the temperature rose on race day. Sadly, the same couldn’t be said for the atmosphere in the stands, as a small crowd showed up to watch on Sunday.

Mazda had a busy morning as Mauricio Sandro Sala revved the engine during warm-up and the third powertrain of the weekend was duly installed. Derek Warwick found the Peugeot porpoising with full tanks – which didn’t bode well for the afternoon. Toyota focused on cleaning the tires during the warm-up, with the car seemingly proving finicky on unscrubbed covers.

Disappointment at Euroracing as the Stefan Johansson/Jesus Pareja Lola T92/10 got stuck in two gears on the parade lap and had to be taken off the grid. It did not start. The Chamberlain Spice was also in trouble, which developed a fuel leak and had to start from the pit lane.

After 10 laps, Warwick was leading four seconds behind Lees with Baldi and Lammers a second behind. Volker Weidler in the Mazda was fifth and clocked 1m31, compared to 1m29 for the top four

From the rolling start, Warwick led into the first corner ahead of Geoff Lees (Toyota), Mauro Baldi (Peugeot) and Jan Lammers (Toyota), who just failed to get ahead of the Peugeot. Baldi passed Lees in the Parabolica at the end of the first lap, as Warwick took two seconds off the field. Lees trailed Baldi, who set the fastest lap in lap two at 1m29.37s.

The FIA ​​Cup contingent staged their own races with Rainieri Randaccio’s SCI Spice leading the Bernard de Dryver version of Gigi Taverna du Gebhart and Dave Coyne (Argo). The chamberlain pursued at a distance.

Warwick overtook the FIA ​​Cup cars for the first time on lap six, allowing Lees and Lammers to close in on Baldi through traffic. Lees lined up the Peugeot and found a way through on lap eight, through the Parabolica.

After 10 laps, Warwick was leading four seconds behind Lees with Baldi and Lammers a second behind. Volker Weidler in the Mazda was fifth and clocked 1m31, compared to 1m29 for the top four.

Warwick quickly took the lead at the start ahead of Lees, who was passed by Baldi before the end of the lap

Warwick quickly took the lead at the start ahead of Lees, who was passed by Baldi before the end of the lap

Picture by: Motorsport Images

The remaining Euroracing Lola, with Charles Zwolsman at the helm, suffered from gearbox issues from the start, managing laps in 1m34s. Zwolsman held Baldi poorly on lap 18, allowing Lammers to close within half a second before the first lap of pit stops.

Warwick entered on lap 21, staying in the car for the second stint. A lap later, Lammers enters and he too continues. Weidler handed over to Sala after a long stoppage caused by a faulty jumper cable. Cor Euser took over from Zwolsman in the Lola while Philippe Alliot relieved Baldi. Lees’ stoppage set him back a minute as the left front wheel nut jammed. Peugeot now had the cushion it needed.

On lap 25, Lammers’ Toyota swerved left at Ascari, crashing into the Armco near a startled group of photographers.

“It really took me by surprise,” Lammers said afterward, his casual appearance paying homage to Toyota’s strength. “It felt like the tire blew just as I was flat on the power. I had no control at all.”

When the badly damaged car returned, a broken axle was the cause. After 30 laps Warwick had an eight second lead over Alliot with Lees almost a lap down.

The Mazda came into lap 37 with a misfire, spending several minutes in the pits before returning to the fray. “It’s really a trial session now,” smiled John Judd. Sala stopped the car on the track towards the end of the race.

The Alliot Peugeot stopped at the Lesmo on lap 40 with a dead engine.

“I thought it was the exhaust so I gave it a yank to fix the problem and let it go. We used the T car today as the race car engine failed this morning. The car behaved badly throughout the race. Since Saturday morning, this weekend has been rotten for Mauro and me.”

Mazda couldn't fight back with its reworked Jaguar XJR-14

Mazda couldn’t fight back with its reworked Jaguar XJR-14

Picture by: Motorsport Images

Warwick ceded Peugeot’s lead to Yannick Dalmas with a lead of 1m29s over Lees. As he cooled off, Warwick seemed content with his afternoon’s work. “We are running well,” he said. “The temperatures are no problem and the car feels good.” He later explained that the brake pedal was long for much of the race, but he was able to get around it.

Dalmas got the Toyota closer in less than 50 seconds as he made an unscheduled stop on lap 50 to tighten his belt.

Euser parked the Lola with a box full of neutrals. “The gearbox is our biggest problem, it always has been,” he said.

With two laps to go, the Peugeot inexplicably slid sideways over the curbs of the second chicane and rolled, turning the 905 into a Spyder

As the field wore out, Randaccio and ‘Stingbrace’ found themselves third with Chamberlain fourth and Almo Coppelli’s Gebhardt fifth. Coyne retired with an under-revving engine and Dryver’s car gave way to a broken clutch.

Dalmas held Hitoshi Ogawa’s Toyota to about 50 seconds, although there were anxious faces in the Toyota camp when the Japanese radioed that the car was overheating. The crew was ready for a pit stop, but Ogawa managed to contain the problem.

With two laps to go, the Peugeot inexplicably slid sideways over the curbs of the second chicane and rolled, turning the 905 into a Spyder.

“I had soft brakes for a few laps before,” said a distraught Dalmas, “and pressed the brake pedal for response. The car went sideways and off the track.”

Always the consummate professional, Warwick looked on the bright side, 15 points for second place and so on. But he was clearly furious and out of public view asked his engineers what Dalmas thought he was doing so fast with a known brake problem.

Dalmas' late accident was treated with dismay in the Peugeot garage

Dalmas’ late accident was treated with dismay in the Peugeot garage

Picture by: Motorsport Images

Ogawa completed the final lap to win his first world championship event and the first for Toyota. Lees was pleased with the victory, despite the bizarre circumstances.

“I couldn’t keep the Peugeot behind me at the start,” he said. “They seem to have better straight-line speed, but once the Peugeot did a few laps I think they had tire problems and we were quicker in the corners. It was hard to catch Derek, however.”

For Peugeot, with 120 guest journalists present, it was the worst possible scenario. For Toyota, the race was a learning experience, rewarded with a victory.

Monza won’t be remembered as the greatest sports car race of all time, but it would be a mistake to dismiss it as a farce. The Peugeot/Toyota battle will continue to be close all season and Mazda is sure to join them with more development. Silverstone in two weeks will be a decisive race in many ways.

You can watch Peugeot’s sports car return to the 2022 6 Hours of Monza live on Motorsport.tv. Click here for more information.

Lees and Ogawa's #7 Toyota was, remarkably, the only car to race to the finish

Lees and Ogawa’s #7 Toyota was, remarkably, the only car to race to the finish

Picture by: Motorsport Images