The Centenary edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans exceeded expectations, with a chaotic and unpredictable race in the first half, which then turned into an exhilarating duel between Ferrari and Toyota on Sunday morning, ending in favor of the Prancing Horse. A close finish in the LMP2 class, with Inter Europol taking the win. A remarkable comeback in GTE-Am, with Corvette recovering two laps down and claiming victory in the last Le Mans for the GTEs.
Ferrari achieves the tenth win
The Prancing Horse achieves one of the most important successes in its glorious history, the tenth at Le Mans, 58 years after the victory of Joche Rindt, Masten Gregody, and Ed Hugus in 1965. The team led by Antonello Coletta couldn’t have given a better gift to the management who gathered in France, with John Elkann and Benedetto Vigna celebrating in the Ferrari garage alongside Charles Leclerc. Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado, and Antonio Giovinazzi piloted the 499P #51 to the top step of the podium, ahead of the Toyota #8 of Hirakawa, Buemi, and Hartley, and the Cadillac-Dallara #3 of Earl Bamber, Alex Lynn, and Richard Westbrook.
The early hours of the race were marked by unpredictable weather, with a mix of rain and clear skies. Many cars were out of contention for the victory in the first half of the race. The three official Porsches experienced reliability issues, while Peugeot lamented driving errors from their pilots. The Jota team’s Porsche 963 hit the wall twice, accumulating significant lap deficits, as did the Cadillac Action Express #311, which immediately went to the pits after the first lap due to a collision with the barriers.
During the night, a duel between Toyota and Ferrari, the fastest cars on the track, took shape. However, the #50 Red car fell six laps behind after the hybrid system’s radiator broke due to impact with a rock. The #7 Toyota, on the other hand, retired after an incident while lapping a GT car. Sunday saw the Ferrari #51 and the Toyota #8 battling it out, with constant changes at the front of the race based on the pace of the moment and incidents in the pits. Worth noting is the decisive overtaking maneuver by Pier Guidi against Hirakawa, completing an extraordinary stint in which the Italian made up over 40 seconds.
In the last two hours, Ferrari led Toyota by just ten seconds. However, Ryo Hirakawa made a braking mistake at Arnage, likely due to compromised brakes after a high-paced race. The Toyota returned to the pits for quick repairs and managed to retain second place. At that point, nothing could unsettle Ferrari anymore, but there was a moment of tension with 23 minutes remaining when Pier Guidi had to restart the car during the final pit stop. However, the Red car restarted, and Pier Guidi-Calado-Giovinazzi celebrated their first overall victory at Le Mans. With the support of the fifth-place finish of the #50 499P, the Prancing Horse now leads the constructors’ championship. The podium is completed by the Cadillac #3 with the Dallara chassis driven by Bamber, Lynn, and Westbrook.
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Order of arrival
|10||Cadillac Action Express||#311||+18 laps|
|13||Porsche – Jota||#38||+97 laps|
A battle until the last moment in the intermediate class, with Inter Europol #34 defending itself in the final stages from a furious comeback by Louis Deletraz in the WRT #41, who came within a few seconds. In the end, it is Inter Europol that takes the victory with Scherer-Da Costa-Smiechowski, ahead of Kubica-Deletraz-Andrade. Third is the Duqueine #30 driven by Jani-Binder-Pino. In the Pro/Am category, the Italians from AF Corse retired on Sunday morning while leading, allowing Algarve Pro Racing to celebrate the victory.
Everything seemed to go wrong for Corvette on Saturday evening. The C8.R was forced to make an emergency pit stop to replace the right front shock absorber, losing two laps to the leaders. However, Keating, Catsburg, and Varrone staged a sensational comeback, recovering the entire disadvantage and crossing the finish line with a two-minute lead over their pursuers. Second is the Aston Martin #25 ORT by TF driven by Eastwood, Dinan, Al Harty, while the podium is completed by the Porsche #86 of GR Racing piloted by Pera, Barker, and Wainwright. Fourth are the Iron Dames, ahead of the first Ferrari, the AF Corse #54.