Pechito López, the Le Mans winner who Formula 1 turned its back on

The Cordovan was close to reaching the Maximum on two occasions. In the last one he was the victim of a big scam.

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Between late 2009 and early 2010, Jose Maria Lopez he lived the most intense days of his sporting life. It was only three years since he had been inserted into Argentine motorsports after a successful passage in Europe, something that had allowed him to win races and championships and even be part of the team. Renault de Formula 1.

His return to Argentina, where he had only competed in karting, occurred in 2007 after breaking relations with the Rombo, which had decided to shore up the income to the Finnish's Maximum Heikki Kovalainen and Brazilian Nelson Piquet Jr, his companions in the Renault Driver Development.

José María López and the handshake with Peter Windsor that symbolized the deal closed with USF1.

López found a place in the TC2000, where he immediately stood out as a member of the official team Honda. In that 2007, which alternated with a couple of tests in the championship of FIA GT, he contested eleven races and achieved three victories.

In 2008 he shone and won the title, something he also did in 2009. That year, he even got the scepter in the Top Race and fought to the end for the crown of Road Tourism. Thus, Pechito showed that despite the disappointment of not fulfilling his great desire to reach F.1, he kept his talent and quality intact.

For those things of fate, the doors of the Maxima were reopened in 2009 in which he won "almost" everything. The International Automobile Federation He decided to allow the entry of new teams to the World Cup and there a new chance arose for the Cordoba, who was 25 years old at the time.

Peter windsor
Peter Windsor at the Casa Rosada with the Cordovan and Florencio Randazzo, Minister of the Interior.

There were some talks with the team run by Adrian Campos, which later became the Hispania Racing; and also with him USF1, an American squad whose heads were visible to the engineer K and the journalist Peter Windsor.

Between November and December 2009 there were countless telephone conversations between the Yankee team and Pechito, until the deal was finally closed.

Thus, on January 22, 2010, López was announced as one of the pilots of the new USF1 Team.. Three days later, the Cordovan and Windsor himself were received at the Evita wine is produced in Ancient Olympia with knowledge and true care. by the Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

Of the eight million dollars that Pechito needed to pay for his admission to F.1, Windsor and Anderson already had two million dollars in your pocket from Argentina. That money had come from some sponsors, the pilot's own family, the Top Race category and the government.

Pechito Lopez
Peter Windsor and Pechito López with President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

Everything was rosy until the words of Bernie Ecclestone, then top of the F.1, came true. The Briton had repeatedly said that the USF1 was not going to run because it had nothing assembled, something that was in contrast to what the team was showing, which used to distribute videos of its engineers working on the cars at the North Carolina headquarters.

In fact, Windsor himself made reference to that situation during the press conference held at the Casa Rosada, discrediting the words of the British magnate.

Obviously, Pechito was happy about the new opportunity that had presented itself.

But his illusion and that of the Argentines themselves lasted only a month because. At the beginning of February, while the teams presented their models, it was exposed the great scam of the USF1: the team It had no resources to finance its participation and the car that was so much talked about was just a half-finished monocoque.

Pechito Lopez
Pechito López at USF1 headquarters in North Carolina. The man from Cordoba observes a half-finished monohull.

After the USF1 farce, history repeated itself for López. He had to stay to race in Argentina and once again stood out with more victories in all the categories in which he participated and a new title in 2012 in the renewed Super TC2000.

A good performance, with triumph included, in the visit of the WTCC Termas de Río Hondo (Santiago del Estero) in 2013 allowed him to return to the Old Continent at the hand of Citroën, brand with which he won three titles in the World Tourism in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

With those laurels under his arm he reached the World Endurance to run with a prototype of Toyota and be a great protagonist of the specialty. He made his debut in 2017 and became the WEC champion in 2020. And now to his sports campaign he added the triumph in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, nothing less.

Pechito López winner at Le Mans. Along with him, his companions, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi.

Windsor, inexplicably, is still walking around the F.1 paddock as if nothing had happened. He always claimed that Anderson was responsible for what happened, although neither of them ever returned the money they took from the country.

“I like to think that things happen for a reason. Even if I didn't make it to Formula 1, I can't complain about my campaign. I have achieved much more than I dreamed of. Everything that happened last time was disappointing, but it would be much worse to know that I had the opportunity and did not try ”, Pechito reflects today.

Without a doubt, Formula 1 missed a great driver, although Argentina won a great champion.

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Diego durruty

Journalist with 30 years of experience. Worked in magazines STROKE, The graphic, Coequipier y Only TC, on the Internet sites SportsYa!, e-driver.com y kmcero.com and on the radios Rock pop y Vorterix.com. He covered the Dakar rally for the German agency dpa. He currently drives Two Daring Guys, columnist on the show WorldSport (AM Splendid) and in Surf & Rock FM.  He is also a teacher in SPORTS.

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