Welcome to the 24 Hours of Le Mans! It’s race day at Circuit de la Sarthe. The clock will start at 15:00, with the field led on by the number 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid and flanked by its number 1 sister car. Rain has put its mark on the qualifying sessions this week, but the low-pressure area responsible for the unstable weather is retreating northwards, making way for an incoming high-pressure area. Before the temperatures pick up in the Le Mans region next week, the drivers will have to endure at least one more day of rain. As the cars are lining up on the grid, a shower has hit the track. The large amount of standing water on track means the safety car will stay on track for a couple of laps after 15:00 to allow the 60 car strong field to create something of a dry line. Dry running is expected for later this afternoon and the remainder of the Grand Prix d’Endurance.
Follow the race with regular updates and photos here at GT REPORT. Updates by Miguel Bosch (MB) and Richard Westhead (RW), photos by Julian Schmidt and Daniel Schnichels.
Hour 1.5 / 22.5 hours to go / 18 laps / 16:30 local time
The race finally got underway after 51 minutes behind the safety car. On an almost dry track, Mike Conway in the number 6 Toyota TS050 Hybrid overtook number 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid pilot Neel Jani minutes later. Behind him a scramble for the top positions took place, followed by pit stops for slick tyres.
Audi’s number 7 car was first in for slicks. This move gave André Lotterer the lead, but that wasn’t to last long, returning to the pits laps later with a mechanical failure.
The number 1 Porsche 919 of Brendon Hartley inherited the lead but he couldn’t hold on very long either, as Loïc Duval made his move when the New Zealander was getting caught up in traffic.
GTE-Pro is now lead by the number 91 Porsche Team Manthey 991 RSR of Fred Makowiecki who has been flying on wet-weather tyres as well as the slicks, running well ahead of Richard Westbrook in the number 60 Ford GT.
After 1.5 hours, the rain returned albeit light this time, and the lead changed hands once again after Hartley (Porsche) outbraked Duval in traffic at the Mulsanne Straight. MB
Hour 3 / 21 hours to go / 46 laps / 18:13 local time
The rain that hit the track at 16:30 didn’t set through, allowing the track to keep drying. Lotterer (Audi) emerged in the lead after the pit stops, only to return to the pits shortly after with a failing turbocharger, dropping the German six laps back and, for the time being, out of contention.
After a short squabble for the lead between Hartley (Porsche) and Duval (Audi), Porsche led the field with Duval’s number 8 Audi and number 6 Toyota of Conway following in second and third, only seconds away from first. Leapfrogging the Audi during the pit stops, Toyota is now in second place, still within reach of the leader.
Ferrari has taken the lead in GTE-Pro. Porsche held the class lead for a while, before the Manthey-run squad dropped back to behind the Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE with Giancarlo Fisichella in the car and Ganassi Racing Ford GT driver Richard Westbrook. Running nose-to-tail, Ferrari prevailed after the third round of pit stops, now with Toni Vilander behind the wheel. Westbrook handed the car over to Ryan Briscoe, who was passed by the number 68 sister car of Joey Hand. The American is running several seconds behind the Ferrari with Briscoe behind in third place. MB
Hour 5.5 / 18.5 hours to go / 85 laps / 20:33 local time
The sun has appeared over Le Mans but is already setting. At the front of the field the pace has settled in, with the number 1 Porsche of Mark Webber leading. The number 6 Toyota of Kamui Kobayashi is in second after leading for awhile before Kobayashi made his sixth pit stop as well. The gap between first and second has grown considerably since the third hour, now being fifteen seconds. The number 2 Porsche of Marc Lieb runs in third, Oliver Jarvis in the number 8 Audi was in third place before his sixth pit stop, now running in fourth place.
It’s been many decades since they last raced each other at Le Mans, yet Ferrari and Ford are battling like the Americans never left. Running nose-to-tail, the number 68 Ford GT of Joey Hand took the GT lead after 4.5 hours of racing at Mulsanne Straight by making use of the number 82 Risi Ferrari 488 GTE’s slipstream.
After the fifth series of pit stops, the number 66 Ford of Stefan Mücke has moved into second place, demoting Risi Ferrari to second place.
Porsche’s number 91 car is out of contention for the moment, being forced into the pits with a broken radiator for a five minute repair. Leaving the pits, the 991 lost a big amount of what looked like cooling fluid, moments later followed with a spin and heavy hit in the tyre wall by the number 89 WeatherTech Porsche 991 RSR at the same place where the fluid was left, ending the American team’s race. MB
Hour 7.5 / 16.5 hours to go / 117 laps / 22:30 local time
The action has quiet down as daylight is quickly retreating. At the front there are no more direct fights. Toyota can go one lap further than rivals Porsche and Audi, giving the German-Japanese squad the upper hand. Timo Bernhard (Porsche) runs within sight of Stéphane Sarrazin in the leading Toyota, Neel Jani (Porsche) further back. The number 5 Toyota and number 8 Audi, running in respectively fourth and fifth, are still on the lead lap.
Less than a minute separates the top 3 in GTE. Ford is still leading with the number 68 car with Sébastien Bourdias behind the wheel. Scott Dixon in the number 69 Ford GT is 35 seconds behind in second place, and the third placed number 82 Risi Ferrari of Giancarlo Fisichella is 46 seconds back. Before Fisichella took over from Matteo Malucelli, the Ferrari was in the lead for a short time before being overtaken by both Fords. MB
Hour 9 / 15 hours to go / 147 laps / 00:29 local time
Night has set in at Le Sarthe and the number 2 Porsche leads over the number 6 Toyota at the moment, with the two cars exchanging the lead but Toyota running longer stints. The second Toyota of Sébastien Buemi is claiming the final podium position. Timo Bernhard came in just after the start of the 8th hour to change over to Brendan Hartley but the Porsche was back in the garage a lap later with high water temperatures. With the car up on the stands and a flurry over bodies swarming over the car, it was not a good sign for a quick stop for the World Championship defending machine.
The Ford and Ferrari battle continues unabated in GTE-Pro with less then a lap separating the number 68 Ford of Dirk Müller and the number 82 Risi Competizione of Toni Vilander.
A late safety car to repair some barriers closed up the top two Toyota and Porsche, and on the restart after the safety car was called in, Romain Dumas stormed past the Toyota to take back the lead. RW
Hour 11 / 13 hours to go / 169 laps / 2:01 local time
Then tenth hour was mainly dominated by the safety car when the number 91 Porsche had a mechanical failure at the Porsche Curves just before 1:00 local time leading to a long trail of smoke from the stricken RSR. With oil on the track the safety car was out for just under half an hour whilst the track was made safe again.
Up the front in the LMP1 battle it was a Toyota 1-2 until Romain Dumas blasted past Sébastien Buemi on the restart to grab second. Mike Conway in the number 6 Toyota being over a minute in front of the two chasing cars but that advantage had diminished to less than ten seconds by the time of this update. The number 1 Porsche of the defending WEC champions spent more time in the pits, they are 51st outright as of this time.
In GTE-Pro Risi Competizione leads the way with Toni Vilander still holding the advantage over the number 69 Ford. At 1:35 the number 71 AF Corse Ferrari of Davide Rigone found itself in the gravel trap at the Forest Esses and required a slow zone to allow it to be pulled out. Meanwhile in the third placed number 68 Ford Dirk Müller set a new GTE-Pro lap record with a 3:52:413 lap. RW
Hour 13 / 11 hours to go / 203 laps / 4:01 local time
And so we are past the half way mark here at the 84th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours.
At 2:51 local time the number 7 Audi’s woes continued when it slowed to a stop after the Dunlop bridge. Behind the wheel, Swiss maestro Marcel Fässler managed to get the car moving again and crawled down the fabled Mulsanne Straight at a snail’s pace. Thankfully, the car made it to the pits and after handing over the reins to André Lotterer, the car continued on like nothing had happened. Fässler later said that he had missed his braking point and when he tried to move on, the gearbox wouldn’t engage and only engaged later in that lap after he drove under electric power.
Up the front the number 6 Toyota continued its charge towards the chequered flag with Kamui Kobayashi taking his turn to pilot the car. Behind him, Romain Dumas continued in his Porsche, still sandwiched between the two Toyotas until Kobayashi pitted, handing the lead over to Dumas. That lead didn’t last long as Dumas had to pit also, handing over the car to Marc Lieb and the lead back to Kobayashi. Lieb made small but steady inroads on the 40 odd second gap between the two of them.
In GTE-Pro it was still the Risi Competizione 488 now driven by Matteo Maulucelli with a lap in hand who solely defended the pride of Maranello up against the two Chip Ganassi Fords with the Aston Martin of Marco Sørensen being the first non turbo GTE car in fourth. Before he handed the number 68 machine over to Joey Hand, Dirk Müller again lowered his new lap record into the high 3:51 mark, close to qualifying pace. RW
Hour 15 / 9 hours to go / 236 laps / 6:00 local time
Heading towards dawn now and we’re getting close to the last third of the race.
Trouble for both Rebellions with the number 12 in the garage for a clutch change and the number 13 stranded out on the Mulsanne Straight. The battle between Toyota and Porsche continues at a furious pace with the lead mainly changing due to pit stops and the top three cars (the two Toyotas and the number 2 Porsche) being on different pit strategies. With nine hours to go it is the number 6 Toyota of Stéphane Sarrazin that leads by fifteen seconds of Lieb in the number 2 Porsche with Nakajima in the other Toyota just a few seconds behind the German.
The lead in GTE-Pro changed hands several times with the number 69 Ford stopping to change brake discs, followed by the Risi Ferrari which did the same and lost the lead in the process. After the round of pit stops ended, it was the Risi car back in front followed by the number 68 Ford and making three different makes on the podium in class, the number 95 Aston in the hands of the evergreen Darren Turner. The number 69 Ford restored the status quo of the last few hours by taking back the third place from the Aston.
More woe for the number 67 Ford when it was hit by Nic Jonnson in the Krohn Ligier LMP2 machine, both cars spinning in synchronised fashion but without major damage to either car. RW
Hour 17 / 7 hours to go / 266 laps / 7:59 local time
The sun is up at Le Sarthe and with it came a number of slow zones and a safety car triggered after several incidents.
At around 6:45 the number 64 Corvette driven by Tommy Milner hit a bump at Dunlop, got light in the rear end and fired off head first into the tire barrier on the right hand side of the track, destroying the front of the car in an instant. Thankfully, Milner wasn’t hurt and clambered out to discuss the incident with a trackside photographer. Several slow zones were activated to cover removing the car from trackside.
A good 20 minutes after that, Simon Trummer in the Kolles LMP1 privateer machine pulled to the left of the track in the Porsche Curves with flames coming from the right hand side of the car around the exhaust, keeping going the unfortunate tradition of the Kolles car bursting into flames. Thankfully, he pulled over next to a marshals post and the fire was extinguished rather quickly with no harm done to its young Swiss driver.
And the carnage didn’t end there: Shortly after that fire was extinguished, the number 46 TDS by Thiriet with none other then Pierre Thiriet onboard left Mulsanne corner at speed, taking several bollards with it in the process and damaging the front end of the car, but not so much as to prevent the car from moving off towards the pits. A safety car was brought out onto the track to deal with this latest incident. The number 46 made it back into the Thiriet pits.
Meanwhile, the Kolles car is smoking again…
Tertre Rouge was the next talking point with Ed Brown in the number 30 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier-Nissan LMP2 going off into the gravel but was able to rejoin.
As much as we look forward to the rising of the sun in the morning, this isn’t what we hoped for it to bring.
Dual pit stops for the leading Toyota duo had seen the number 2 Porsche in the hands of Neel Jani gain a momentary lead which was reversed when Jani himself pitted for fuel only and emerged from pitlane only to find himself behind both the number 5 and 6 Toyotas.
Risi Competizione still leads GTE-Pro with their Ferrari 488 by a lap over the 68 Ford of Sebastian Bourdais. RW
Hour 19.5 / 4.5 hours to go / 313 laps / 10:48 local time
A drive-through penalty for the number 68 Ford GT for having the engine running during a pit stop momentarily gave the GT lead to Risi Ferrari. Both Fords that have been running up front all night remained in striking distance of Matteo Malucelli’s Ferrari, picking P1 back up with the number 68 of Joey Hand halfway through the 19th hour.
At the very front of the field it’s still Toyota running strong. With the number 2 Porsche and number 5 Toyota exchanging the lead through out-of-sync pit stops, the winner might come down to how fuel consumption plays out in the final hours. The number 6 Toyota with Kamui Kobayashi is right in the mix as well. By now the Toyotas are running nearly one stint more efficient than the opposition, giving them the advantage over the chasing number 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Marc Lieb. MB
Hour 22 / 2 hours to go / 350 laps / 13:00 local time
Drama for the number 6 Toyota. Running in third place with less than four hours to go, Kamui Kobayashi lost control at the high-speed Maison-Blanche section, spinning the car into the gravel. With full throttle and helped by the car’s AWD the TS050 freed itself from the trap, but the damage was already done: Fifty minutes later, internal damaged caused by the trip through the run-off forced the Japanese driver to make a long unscheduled pit stop and forfeiting the fight over second place. With every other manufacturer car behind him many laps back, Kobayashi returned to the track still in third place but at a three-lap disadvantage.
Toyota’s number 5 car as the race fully under control. Porsche is about a minute away, but the number 3 919 with Neel Jani is no direct threat due to the pit stop sequence.
In the battle for GT honours, Ford has the race pretty much wrapped up. A spin and tour through the gravel by the Risi Ferrari in the style of Kobayashi’s excursion gave the number 68 Ford GT some breathing space.
LMP2 is going the way of the number 36 Signatech Alpine A460-Nissan. Stépane Richelmi is leading the class by almost three minutes over the G-Drive Racing Oreca 05-Nissan, placing victory within reach.
GTE-Am is led by the number 62 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia GTE. MB
Hour 24 / 0 hours to go / 384 laps / 16:00 local time
They just can’t. After numerous attempts, countless millions of yens spent, decades of trying, Toyota loses once again. All Kazuki Nakajima had to do was drive it to the finish. Four minutes were in front of him. And then he informed the team that the car was out of power. That was all there was to it. Coming to a standstill at the finish line, Neel Jani in the trailing number 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid shared with Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb passes him at full speed, bringing home the unexpected eighteenth win for the sportscar manufacturer from Stuttgart.
“The last half hour I didn’t believe we could win any more,” a speechless Lieb tells Eurosport. “I don’t know what to say.”
Dumas adds: “How can I describe this? It’s very difficult to say. It was my dream to win with Porsche and it happened today.”
Ford’s return to Le Mans will go down in the history books as the greatest homage to their 1966 Le Mans win possible. Like back then, the Americans brought the fight straight to Ferrari and conquered the Circuit de la Sarthe. The race for the GT win was settled in the final hours as Risi Competizione could not get close enough to the leading number 68 Ford GT of Dirk Müller, Sébastien Bourdais and Joey Hand. Refusing race control’s calls to come into the pits for repairs on the leader light in the final half hour, it was game over anyway for Ferrari.
“It’s such an honour to be part of this group of people, just the whole Ford family and everyone around it,” local hero Bourdais says. “It’s just an amazing feeling, I’m at lost of words.
“It was incredible, fighting with Ferrari like back in the day, no one could’ve written a better script.
“I didn’t think about [winning]. We just put heads down and did our best and when we looked up in the end, we thought ‘yep, we’re still standing and running strong, we’re in this,’ and it all worked out.”
The number 36 Signatech Alpine A460-Nissan of Gustavo Menezes, Nicolas Lapierre and Stépane Richelmi held on to the LMP2 lead in the final hours, as did the number 62 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia GTE of Americans Bill Sweedler, Townsend Bell and Jeff Segal.
That’s it for our coverage of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Stay tuned for a full photo gallery from Julian Schmidt and Daniel Schnichels. MB