Toyota GAZOO Racing’s No. 8 Toyota TS050 shared by Fernando Alonso, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima claimed the overall honors in the 24 Hours of Le Mans on Sunday. The driving trio claimed a two-lap victory over the No. 7 Toyota. It is the second-ever victory at Le Mans for a Japanese manufacturer, matching Mazda’s feat from 1991.
The race was actually fairly close between the two factory entries for much of the distance. The other LMP1 prototypes were simply not in the same league. They never threatened the Toyotas for the whole race. Probably the most likely privately-entered LMP1 to take the fight to the Toyotas was cut out of the battle at the Dunlop Chicane on the very first lap. REBELLION Racing’s André Lotterer ran in the back of the No. 8 in the first turn, which dislodged his nose.
At the Dunlop chicane, the nose flew off the car and hit the DragonSpeed BR Engineering BR1, spinning out the No. 10. Lotterer had to drive eight miles back to the pits at a slightly reduced pace to get the nose fixed. The No. 1 team was never able to make up the deficit even to their teammates formed on the first lap.
The margin of victory should have been way closer than two laps, but the No. 7 Toyota was penalized twice in the final two hours of the race. First, Kamui Kobayashi missed pit-in on the lap that he had to pit on. As a result, he ran low on fuel and had to putt around to get into the pits., costing time. After the stop, the No. 7 was called in for two 10-second stop-and-go-penalties. One was for using too much fuel, while the other one was for violating a pit window rule that banned anyone from going more than 11 laps between stops.
In LMP2, G-Drive Racing’s No. 26 shared by Andrea Pizzitola, Roman Rusinov and Jean-Eric Vergne dominated the proceedings. The trio led the LMP2 class for all but about 30 minutes of the race, ultimately rising up to finish fifth overall with minimal issues.
G-Drive’s margin of victory was two laps over the Signatech Alpine Matmut No. 36 of Nicolas Lapierre, André Negrão and Pierre Thiriet. GRAFF-SO24’s Vincent Capillaire, Tristan Gommendy and Jonathan Hirschi were third, three laps down. TDS Racing’s Loïc Duval, François Perrodo and Matthieu Vaxivière were four laps down in fourth, while United Autosports’ No. 32 Ligier of Hugo de Sadeleer, Juan Pablo Montoya and William Owen was fifth. The fifth-place finish came despite Montoya nosing the car into the tires at Indianapolis early on.
The most hard-fought of the classes was GTE-Pro, especially early on as the Porsches and Fords fought among themselves. However, a safety car period split the field and more or less ended any real competition for the lead. Porsche GT Team’s No. 92 “Pig” of Michael Christensen, Kevin Estre and Laurens Vanthoor were given a two-minute lead as a result of the safety car and ran the rest of the race unchallenged to take the class victory.
The No. 92’s margin of victory was a full lap over the No. 91 Porsche of Gianmaria Bruni, Richard Lietz and Frédéric Makowiecki. Ford Chip Ganassi Racing IMSA’s No. 68 for Sébastien Bourdais, Joey Hand and Dirk Müller were third, followed by Corvette Racing’s No. 63 for Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen and Mike Rockenfeller. AF Corse’s one-off No. 52 Ferrari for Pipo Derani, Antonio Giovinazzi and Toni Vilander were fifth.
GTE-Am was also Porsche dominated. The No. 77 Porsche of Julian Andlauer, Matt Campbell and Christian Ried took the lead in the third hour and held on to take the victory. The favored No. 88 Porsche ultimately crashed out.
The margin of victory was 109 seconds over the Spirit of Race Ferrari of Francesco Castellacci, Thomas Flohr and Giancarlo Fisichella. A lap back in third was the Keating Motorsports/Risi Competizione Ferrari of Jeroen Bleekemolen, Ben Keating and Luca Stolz. Proton Competition’s all-American lineup of Patrick Long, Tim Pappas and Spencer Pumpelly finished fourth.
The WEC takes the next couple of months off. Round No. 3 of the “Super Series” will be the 6 Hours of Silverstone on Aug. 19.
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