May 25, 2024

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The #51 Ferrari 499P. wins at Le Mans Credit: MarcelX42 via Wikimedia

Ferrari Ends Toyota’s Dominance with Historic Victory at Le Mans

Ferrari won the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the first time since 1965, ending Toyota’s unbroken string of victories over the past five years. The Italian team, which returned to the top category of endurance racing this year, claimed a dominant win with its #51 Ferrari 499P driven by Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado, and Antonio Giovinazzi.

The trio completed 305 laps of the 8.46-mile Circuit de la Sarthe, beating the #8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid of Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima, and Brendon Hartley by one lap. The #2 Cadillac DPi-V.R of Renger van der Zande, Loic Duval, and Kevin Magnussen completed the podium, two laps behind the winners.

Prancing pony is back

Ferrari’s victory was its 10th overall at Le Mans, and its first since Jochen Rindt and Masten Gregory won the race in a Ferrari 250 LM in 1965. It was also the first win for Pier Guidi and Calado, who are regular drivers for Ferrari in the World Endurance Championship, and for Giovinazzi, who made his Le Mans debut after racing in Formula 1 for Alfa Romeo.

The race was marked by several incidents and yellow flags, which affected the strategies and fortunes of the leading contenders. Toyota, which had won the race every year since 2018, suffered from reliability issues and penalties that doomed its chances of defending its crown. The #7 Toyota of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, and Jose Maria Lopez was forced to retire after a gearbox failure in the final hour, while the #8 Toyota had to serve a stop-and-go penalty for exceeding fuel consumption limits.

Toyota toppled

Ferrari, on the other hand, had a flawless run with its new hypercar, which proved to be faster and more efficient than its rivals. The #51 Ferrari led for most of the race, losing the lead only briefly during pit stops or safety car periods. A second entry of the winning team, the #50 Ferrari of Miguel Molina, Daniel Serra, and Sam Bird, crashed out of second place in the night after colliding with a lapped car.

The hypercar class also saw the debut of new manufacturers such as Glickenhaus, Peugeot, and Porsche Penske Motorsport, which showed promising speed but came up short in reliability. The best-finishing newcomer was the #708 Glickenhaus SCG 007 LMH of Ryan Briscoe, Romain Dumas, and Richard Westbrook, which placed sixth overall.

In the LMP2 class, Inter Europol Competition scored a surprise win with its #34 Oreca 07-Gibson driven by Jakub Smiechowski, Albert Costa, and Fabio Scherer. The Polish team beat the more favored Team WRT and IDEC Sport squads, which suffered from crashes and mechanical problems. The LMP2 podium was completed by the #41 Team WRT Oreca of Robert Kubica, Louis Deletraz, and Yifei Ye, and the #48 IDEC Sport Oreca of Paul Lafargue, Paul-Loup Chatin, and Patrick Pilet.

American muscle

The LM GTE class saw a close battle between Corvette Racing and Iron Dames, with the American team bringing home the hardware by a narrow margin. The #94 Corvette C8.R of Nicky Catsburg, Ben Keating, and Nicolas Varrone took the class win after completing 278 laps, just ahead of the #85 Ferrari 488 GTE Evo of Rahel Frey, Michelle Gatting, and Sarah Bovy. The #25 Aston Martin Vantage AMR of John Hartshorne, Ollie Hancock, and Ross Gunn rounded out the top three in class.

The race also featured a special entry from NASCAR’s Hendrick Motorsports in the Garage 56 category for innovative projects. The team fielded a hybrid Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 driven by Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott, and Alex Bowman. The car finished 39th overall after overcoming several technical issues and accidents.

The 2023 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans was the 100th running of the legendary race, which started in 1923 and attracted a crowd of over 100,000 spectators.

Picture of By Jim Daws

By Jim Daws

Jim Daws is Managing Editor for Innovation & Tech Today.

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