After their first victory in 2018, Toyota has once again scored a 1-2 finish with the #8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid first past the chequered flag ahead of the #7 sister car. Until the final hour, however, last year’s winners in the #7 car, Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Fernando Alonso were almost decided to settle for second place. Until the dramatic turn of events, Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José-Maria had looked set to take a symbolic win. The #7 had topped most of the hourly time sheets and looked like comfortable winners after the two Toyota TS050 Hybrids started the race on pretty equal footing.
Mike Conway (Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid) made the most of the clean track to clock up some fast laps early on. With a time of 3:17.297, his fourth lap was the fastest of the whole race. An hour later there was a 15-second gap between the two cars, the gap gradually extending to a minute as the race progressed.
In the eighth hour, there were signs of a real battle between the two cars. In the #7, José-Maria Lopez went straight into the gravel at Mulsanne, giving Kazuki Nakajima in the #8 a chance to sneak past. The #7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid moved back into the lead overnight, however, thanks to some very efficient pit stops and the car’s drivers scoring their fastest lap times. In 2018, it was the #8 car that had excelled on both fronts. However, the thunderbolt struck at 13:58. The #7 slowed right down with a puncture and José-Maria Lopez could only dawdle back to the pit lane. In the Porsche curves, Kazuki Nakajima moved out in front for the final hour until the chequered flag.
The battle amongst the non-hybrid LMP1 cars was equally enthralling. They all fell foul to punctures, technical issues and driver errors. The two Rebellion R-13 Gibsons suffered, especially the #3 driven by Thomas Laurent, Nathanaël Berthon and Gustavo Menezes. Thomas Laurent’s impact after a braking error in the second Mulsanne just after 21:00 was particularly memorable. The Rebels’ main rivals in the SMP Racing #11 BR1-AER ran a more consistent race and were thrilled to take the third spot on the podium. Mikhail Aleshin, Stoffel Vandoorne and Vitaly Petrov never dropped further back than P4. The AER engine and the beautifully designed BR Engineering BR1 have proven to be extremely reliable.
1 – #8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, Toyota Gazoo Racing – Sébastien Buemi/Kazuki Nakajima/Fernando Alonso
2 – #7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, Toyota Gazoo Racing – Mike Conway/Kamui Kobayashi/Jose-Maria Lopez
3 – #11 BR Engineering BR1, SMP Racing – Mikhail Aleshin/Stoffel Vandoorne/Vitaly Petrov
The early stages of the race saw a furious battle between Matthieu Vaxivière in the TDS Racing #28 Oreca 07-Gibson, Nicolas Lapierre in the Signatech Alpine #36 Alpine A470-Gibson and Jean-Eric Vergne in the G-Drive Racing #26 Aurus 01-Gibson. IDEC Sport and DragonSpeed followed.
As the race panned out, G-Drive Racing established itself as the leader of the pack. Job van Uitert got the better of Nicolas Lapierre. In the next stint, Jean-Eric Vergne got the better of Andre Negrao in a well-balanced scrap. But that was before the 28th stop, when the G-Drive Racing #26 Aurus 01 refused to start. When the car came back out, 20 minutes later, it was in 7th place. Therefore, the reliable Jackie Chan DC Racing #38 Oreca 07-Gibson, and the TDS Racing #28 Oreca 07-Gibson take second and third behind the Signatech Alpine Matmut, in what is the third class win after 2016 et 2018.
1 – Signatech Alpine Matmut #36 Alpine A470 – Nicolas Lapierre / André Négrao / Pierre Thiriet
2 – Jackie Chan DC Racing #38 Oreca 07 – Gabriel Aubry / Stéphane Richelmi / Ho-Pin Tung
3 – TDS Racing #28 Oreca 07 – Loïc Duval / François Perrodo / Matthieu Vaxivière
For what may be the car’s last campaign, the Chevrolet Corvette C7.Rs failed in their mission to conquer Le Mans. The #64 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R was the first to retire after an accident. Contact between Marcel Fässler and Satoshi Hoshinoin the Dempsey-Proton Racing #88 Porsche 911 RSR sent the Corvette into the barrier. The damage was too great for the car to set off again.
In the early stages of the race, there was little to choose between the top five. There were still ten cars in the same lap at 19:00 on Saturday with battle raging between the Corvette Racing #63 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R which often had the upper hand over the Porsche GT Team #92 and #93 Porsche 911 RSRs and the AF Corse #51 Ferrari 488 GTE hot on its heels. The Fords were a little way behind. In the tenth hour, a safety car period shook things up. The Porsche GT Team #92 Porsche 911 RSR and the AF Corse #51 Ferrari 488 GTE got away from those behind the next safety car. The #93 and #91 Porsche 911 RSR and the #68 and #69 Ford GTs trailed 1:30 behind.
Shortly before midnight, Aston Martin lost all hope of a podium. First, Alex Lynn went off in the karting curve with the #97 Aston Martin Vantage. Less than 20 minutes later, Marco Sørensen made a similar mistake with the #95 sister car. Neither were injured. The #97 managed to limp home but the #95 was too damaged and triggered a safety car period.
Early in the morning, the #92 Porsche encountered an exhaust issue and plummeted in the tables. Then came a fantastic battle for supremacy between the Corvette Racing #63 Corvette C7.R and the AF Corse #51 Ferrari 488 GTE. Mid morning, the outcome was difficult to predict. Then shortly before 12:00 Jan Magnussen span off in the Porsche Curves and hit the wall. The fight for the top spot became a Ferrari v Porsche head-to-head, which was won by the AF Corse #51 Ferrari 488 GTE – a fitting way to celebrate the marque’s 70th anniversary at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
1 – AF Corse #51 Ferrari 488 GTE – James Calado / Alessandro Pier Guidi / Daniel Serra
2 – Porsche GT Team #91 Porsche 911 RSR – Gianmaria Bruni / Richard Lietz / Frédéric Makowiecki
3 – Porsche GT Team #93 Porsche 911 RSR – Earl Bamber / Patrick Pilet / Nick Tandy
Pecking order in the LMGTE Am class shaped up early on Saturday evening with little change thereafter. Dempsey-Proton Racing’s #77 and #88 Porsche 911 RSRs swooped into the top spot in the early laps. The #88 soon dropped back, however, after a collision with the #64 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R fielded by Corvette Racing, leaving the #77 alone up ahead. At 20:00, Team Project 1’s #56 Porsche 911 RSR driven by Jörg Bergmeister and Keating Motorsports #85 driven by Jeroen Bleekemolen were hot on each other’s heels, with the #90 Aston Martin Vantage driven by Euan Hankey for TF Sport coming up behind.
Mid-morning saw the Keating Motorsports #85 widen the gap and storm ahead, gaining a lap over the #56, Team Project 1’s Porsche 911 RSR. The advantage was short-lived, though, when the Ford GT was smacked with a penalty for a wheelspin in the pits. But the victory on the horizon had Ford’s name on it. The win heralds the US manufacturer’s first LMGTE Am title and the second for its GT model at Le Mans, after claiming first place in the LMGTE Pro class in 2016.
1 – #85 Ford GT – Keating Motorsports – Jeroen Bleekemolen / Ben Keating / Felipe Fraga
2 – #56 Porsche 911 RSR – Team Project 1 – Jörg Bergmeister / Patrick Lindsey / Egidio Perfetti
3 – #84 Ferrari 488 GTE – JMW Motorsport – Jeffrey Segal / Rodrigo Baptista / Wei Lu
The top step on the LMGTE Am class podium is now claimed by Team Project 1’s #56 Porsche.
The results of the 87th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans remain provisional.