With 23 hours of the 87th edition of the Le Mans 24-Hours run, it looked like the #7 Gazoo Racing Toyota would take victory with the #8 sister car to finish second, but fate had other plans as victory went to the latter car handing Fernando Alonso, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima.
It was their second win at the Sarthe in two years as the trio also wrapped up the 2018-2019 World Endurance Championship SuperSeason world title.
For Alonso, it was a dream come true as he became the only driver ever to win the F1 World Championship (two), the WEC title and two back-to-back victories at the sport’s greatest endurance race. While Nakajima became the first Japanese driver to win the WEC title.
But in a way, it was a bittersweet victory for the team because of the #7 car looked set for victory until an hour to go when a puncture ended their hopes as they watched a one minute lead evaporate as Lopes nursed his car back to the pits, then going onto finish second in a race that once against proved to be cruel until the very end.
Firm favourites well before Charlene, Princess of Monaco waved the French flag to signal the start of the race at 15:00 on Saturday, Toyota lived up to expectations. But favourites don’t always make winners and a 24-hour race doesn’t run itself.
Toyota know better than any team that you can never before sure of anything at Le Mans. There was last hour drama in the Toyota Gazoo Racing camp again this year, when the #7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid lost the lead to the #8 sister car after a puncture.
Thus they became is the first Japanese manufacturer to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans twice. A third win in 2020 would give them the right to keep the trophy!
Stoffel Vandoorne — Alonso’s former McLaren teammate — finished third in his debut Le Mans with Russian teammates Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin in the #11 SMP Racing BR Engineering car.
Toyota TS050 Hybrid, Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 – Sébastien Buemi/Kazuki Nakajima/Fernando Alonso
Toyota TS050 Hybrid, Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 – Mike Conway/Kamui Kobayashi/Jose-Maria Lopez
LMP2: Double celebration for Signatech Alpine Matmut
Signatech Alpine Matmut have successfully defended their LMP2 Le Mans title after taking the overall win following a stellar drive by Nicolas Lapierre, André Negrao and Pierre Thiriet in the 332 Ligier JSP217 – Gibson car. It also marks the first time that an LMP2 car equipped with Michelin tyres has won at Le Mans since the WEC began.
Moreover, the French team have clinched the coveted LMP2 title over Jackie Chan DC Racing who put up a terrific fight but eventually finished second – 15 points adrift of category victors Signatech.
TDS Racing finished the FIA WEC Super Finale in third position, the French team taking solace in a podium position after the team’s misfortune last year.
Meanwhile, it was a race to forget for American-based team DragonSpeed with the 331 ORECA 07 – Gibson car crashing out in the 16th hour with Pastor Maldonado at the wheel.
Signatech Alpine Matmut #36 Alpine A470 – Nicolas Lapierre / André Négrao / Pierre Thiriet
Jackie Chan DC Racing #38 Oreca 07 – Gabriel Aubry / Stéphane Richelmi / Ho-Pin Tung
TDS Racing #28 Oreca 07 – Loïc Duval / François Perrodo / Matthieu Vaxivière
LMGTE PRO: Ferrari triumphs in this class, after a hard-fought battle
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 Hoshino in 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.
AF Corse #51 Ferrari 488 GTE – James Calado / Alessandro Pier Guidi / Daniel Serra
Porsche GT Team #91 Porsche 911 RSR – Gianmaria Bruni / Richard Lietz / Frédéric Makowiecki
Porsche GT Team #93 Porsche 911 RSR – Earl Bamber / Patrick Pilet / Nick Tandy
LMGTE AM: Keating Motorsports win it for Ford
The 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.
Ford GT #85 – Keating Motorsports – Jeroen Bleekemolen / Ben Keating / Felipe Fraga
Porsche 911 RSR #56 – Team Project 1 – Jörg Bergmeister / Patrick Lindsey / Egidio Perfetti
Ferrari 488 GTE #84 – JMW Motorsport – Jeffrey Segal / Rodrigo Baptista / Wei Lu
CLICK HERE for the result from the 24 Hours of Le Mans CLICK HERE for the championship positions at the end of the 2018/19 Super Season.