The last four hours of this year’s 24-Hour Le Mans were totally exciting.
Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #88 got a 10-second pitstop penalty for speeding up in a Slow Zone.
Rebellion Racing #1 had caught up with #3 on the track, but there was an order from the powers that be, that the two cars weren’t allowed to fight. Gustavo Menezes in #1 was very frustrated about it and complained over the radio, but he got told that he must keep his distance.
But #1 finally managed to get past, by being persistent.
Team Project 1 Porsche #89 was suddenly driving slowly. They had had contact on their right side, where some parts of the side panel were missing, as well as a puncture on the right front tire. The car came back to the pits and got pushed back into the garage for repair.
Rebellion Racing #3 with Louis Deletraz outbraked itself in Indianapolis and went off the track into the gravel, brushing the tire wall with the rear part of the car. He drove directly back to the pits. It turned out that the car needed more than a new rear, since it wouldn’t restart. The mechanics had no choice but push the car into the garage. It took so long that they lost the third position to Toyota Gazoo Racing #7.
United Autosports #22 kept the lead in LMP2, where the team chose to put Phil Hanson in the car for the last stint.
Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #99 went off the track in Tertre Rouge, where Lucas Legeret hit the end of the tire wall and damaged the front of the 911 RSR. He spread debris down the Mulsanne Straight, so that – combined with the tire wall which needed to be repaired – caused a Slow Zone.
Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 had a trip to the gravel but could safely come back.
Jean-Eric Vergne did a very unlikely mistake in G-Drive Racing #26 when he came too far in Indianapolis. He put the car in reverse and came back to the track, but the third position was gone. It turned out that the suspension was damaged, but it could be repaired in the pits.
SO24 HAS by Graff #39 went off track in the Porsche Curves and hit the tire wall so hard that the entire front of the car was damaged, and the car retired on the spot. James Allen could leave the car by himself after getting the all-clear from the doctor, but he still had to go to the medical centre to get checked.
It triggered a Safety Car, so that the car could get removed securely.
Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #77 with Matt Campbell and AF Corse Ferrari #83 with Nicklas Nielsen behind the wheel battled it out for the second place in GTE Am.
United Autosports #22 pitted with nine minutes left of the race, with an estatic Filipe Albuque watching closely from the garage. It returned to the track just six seconds ahead of JOTA #38. Anthony Davidson in #38 caught up with Hanson in #22 with some seconds on the following lap – before Davidson then also pitted, ending the suspense for UA #22.
After twenty-four intense hours, Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 with Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley won Le Mans, with five laps down to Rebellion Racing #1 with Gustavo Menezes, Norman Nato and Bruno Senna, while Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 with Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez took the last podium spot. Rebellion Racing #3 also finished the race, which means that ByKolles Racing Team #4 was the only retirement amongst the LMP1 cars.
In the LMP2 class, United Autosports #22 with Phil Hanson, Filipe Albuquerque and Paul Di Resta won the race, with thirty-two seconds ahead of JOTA #38 with Anthony Davidson, Antonio Felix da Costa and Roberto Gonzalez, while the local heroes from Panis Racing #31 with Julien Canal, Matthieu Vaxiviere and Nico Jamin finished third.
In GTE Pro, AF Corse Ferrari #51 and Aston Martin Racing #97 had had an intense duel throughout the major part of the race. It wasn’t until the very end, that AMR #97 with Maxime Martin, Alexander Lynn and Harry Tincknell could cross the finish line first, with ninety seconds down to last year’s winner AF Corse #51 with James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Daniel Serra. Aston Martin Racing #95 with Nicki Thiim, Marco Sørensen og Richard Westbrook finished in third place
AF Corse Ferrari #71 retired on the final lap and thus wasn’t classified. They would have to say goodbye to any chance of winning the championship.
TF Sport Aston Martin #90 with Salih Yoluc, Charlie Eastwood and Jonny Adam had a perfect weekend by winning the GTE Am, with fifty seconds down to Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #77 with Christian Ried, Riccardo Pera and Matt Campbell in second place, while AF Corse Ferrari #83 with Francois Perrodo, Emmanuel Collard and Nicklas Nielsen finished third, only three seconds behind P2.
The two all-female cars in the race, Iron Lynx Ferrari #85 and Richard Mille Racing Team #50, both finished ninth in GTE Am and LMP2 respectively. It wasn’t a bad achievement for the latter, considering all three drivers, Sophia Flörsch, Tatiana Calderon and Beitske Visser were all Le Mans rookies, with Flörsch only driving the car for one weekend, and Visser two weekends prior to the race.
The championship points aren’t yet calculated, but we’ll post about them in a separate article later.
Now all the FIA World Endurance Championship teams can go home and get the car ready for the season finale in Bahrain in two months’ time. The European Le Mans Series teams, however, will already be in action in three weeks’ time at Monza for the penultimate race of the season.