2019 should’ve been the year of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López’ first Le Mans 24 Hours win — a final-hour bungle from Toyota Gazoo Racing shattered that dream. Instead of changing a flat tyre, the German-Japanese team replaced a perfectly fine one based on data from a faulty sensor and sent López out with the puncture unfixed, forcing an extra pitstop for the #7 Toyota and handing victory to the #8 Toyota of Fernando Alonso, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima.

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LMP2 was won by Signatech Alpine Matmut, the French team enjoying a resistance-free afternoon after G-Drive Racing hit trouble in the morning.

While in GTE-Pro Ferrari’s AF Corse took a similar unchallenged win, in Am the final hour saw a showdown between Keating Motorsports’ Jeroen Bleekemolen and Team Project 1’s Jörg Bergmeister, eventually going the way of the Ford GT team. However, due to post-race disqualification of the Keating Motorsports Ford GT, Team Project 1 has picked up GTE-Am victory.

Finish | 385 laps complete | 15:00 local time

LMP1 | WINNER: #8 TOYOTA GAZOO RACING (FERNANDO ALONSO/SÉBASTIEN BUEMI/KAZUKI NAKAJIMA)

A puncture with 64 minutes left on the clock was the beginning of the end for the #7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid’s chances for victory. Initially it only cost López a good chunk of his 2-minute lead, but by changing the wrong tyre based on data from a faulty sensor, the Toyota immediately had to come back in. The unforced error cost the Argentinian the lead as he cautiously made his way around the track. Kazuki Nakajima in the #8 Toyota overtook the slowed Toyota at the Porsche Curves and never looked back. A desperate attempt by López to close the gap couldn’t keep Nakajima from taking the chequered flag first, who simultaneously won the FIA World Endurance Cup making Fernando Alonso the only driver ever to claim a world championship title in both Formula 1 as well as the world championship for sports cars. 

In the battle for privateers honours – rewarded with the final step on the podium – SMP Racing stayed strong in the afternoon, bringing home a hard-earned third place in face of Rebellion and the SMP sister cars’ woes.

TOP 5

  1. #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing (Fernando Alonso/Sébastien Buemi/Kazuki Nakajima)
  2. #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing (Mike Conway/Kamui Kobayashi/José María López)
  3. #11 SMP Racing BR1 (Mikhail Aleshin/Vitaly Petrov/Stoffel Vandoorne)
  4. #1 Rebellion Racing R13 (Neel Jani/André Lotterer/Bruno Senna)
  5. #3 Rebellion Racing R13 (Nathanaël Berthon/Thomas Laurent/Gustavo Menezes)

 

LMP2 | WINNER: #36 SIGNATECH ALPINE MATMUT (NICOLAS LAPIERRE/ANDRÉ NEGRÃO/PIERRE THIRIET)

The afternoon had nothing in store of action for the LMP2 class win, with Signatech Alpine Matmut cruising to its second Le Mans 24 Hours win in the 2018-19 FIA World Endurance Championship and securing the LMP2 title in the process.

“We decided to give priority to the world championship title, but once the race started, we fought with all we had against G-Drive,” Nicolas Lapierre declared after the race. “They were not a championship rival, but we had to respect this legendary race by fighting for the victory. Our work paid off and the win clinched the title for us. It is a very big mix of emotions, but also satisfaction of a job accomplished in a race that was very hard and competitive.

“For me personally, this is my last race with Alpine. Maybe we will reunite in the future, but it was important to finish the way we did and we can’t be anything but proud of this team and everything we have achieved together.”

The #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07 (Gabriel Aubry/Stéphane Richelmi/Ho-Pin Tung) finished second while the #28 TDS Racing Oreca 07 (Loïc Duval/François Perrodo/Matthieu Vaxiviere) claimed third. Neither of the teams were ever a threat to the Alpine squad – that came from long-time leaders #26 G-Drive Racing (Roman Rusinov/Job van Uitert/Jean-Éric Vergne) who eventually finished an unrepresentative sixth place.

TOP 5

  1. #36 Signatech Alpine Matmut (Nicolas Lapierre/André Negrão/Pierre Thiriet)
  2. #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca (Gabriel Aubry/Stéphane Richelmi/Ho-Pin Tung)
  3. #28 TDS Racing Oreca (Loïc Duval/François Perrodo/Matthieu Vaxiviere)
  4. #22 United Autosport Oreca (Filipe Albuquerque/Philip Hanson/Paul di Resta)
  5. #48 IDEC Sport Oreca (Paul-Loup Chatin/Paul Lafargue/Memo Rojas)

 

GTE-PRO | WINNER: #51 AF CORSE FERRARI 488 GTE EVO (JAMES CALADO/ALESSANDRO PIER GUIDI/DANIEL SERRA)

With a high-speed spin and tap of the wall at the Porsches Curves the #63 Corvette Racing C7.R (Antonio García/Jan Magnussen/Mike Rockenfeller) with Jan Magnussen driving took itself out of contention for the win. A quick check and repair in the garage cost the team two laps. Magnussen was pushing to make up for lost ground after the Safety Car phase to recover the stranded Racing Team Netherlands LMP2 in which the Dane made a pitstop under yellow and fell back behind the next group of cars behind one of the Safety Cars.

It was the decisive moment for the GTE-Pro class: The #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo (James Calado/Alessandro Pier Guidi/Daniel Serra) rode to the finish with a comfortable lead while behind the Italian team the #91 Porsche 991 RSR (Gianmaria Bruni/Richard Lietz/Fred Makowiecki) was unthreatened for second by the #93 Porsche (Earl Bamber/Patrick Pilet/Nick Tandy) making for an uncharacteristic tame Sunday afternoon in the GTE-Pro class.

UPDATE 17 JUNE: The #68 (Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA’s Ford GT) has been disqualified after post-race scrutineering for breach of the fuel tank capacity regulations. The team originally finished fourth.

TOP 5

  1. #51 AF Corse Ferrari (James Calado/Alessandro Pier Guidi/Daniel Serra)
  2. #91 Porsche GT (Gianmaria Bruni/Richard Lietz/Fred Makowiecki)
  3. #93 Porsche GT (Earl Bamber/Patrick Pilet/Nick Tandy)
  4. #67 Ford Chip Ganassi (Jonathan Bomarito/Andy Priaulx/Harry Tincknell)
  5. #69 Ford Chip Ganassi (Ryan Briscoe/Scott Dixon/Richard Westbrook)

 

GTE-AM | WINNER: #56 TEAM PROJECT 1 PORSCHE 991 RSR (JÖRG BERGMEISTER/PATRICK LINDSEY/EGIDIO PERFETTI)

Keating Motorsports’ flawlessness was bound to come to an end, and it did when race control forced the #85 Ford GT (Jeroen Bleekemolen/Felipe Fraga/Ben Keating) to come into the pits and change the by now damaged nose of the car. The unscheduled pitstop reduced the gap to the second-placed #56 Team Project 1 Porsche 991 RSR (Jörg Bergmeister/Patrick Lindsey/Egidio Perfetti) to a minute – the length of about one regular pitstop – and could’ve cost the team the victory as Ben Keating left the pits with wheelspin, a no-no at Le Mans and eaning the American team a stop-and-go penalty.

“I have never experienced anything like this,” Jeroen Bleekemolen told RTL7, referring to the forced pit stop to change the car’s nose. The Dutchman was vocal about the penalty as well: “This happens all the time during the night. Often times the officials let it slip, but this time they were all here making sure we’d change the nose of the car properly.”

With one hour to go Bleekemolen took charge of the Ford GT to reel in the victory. Going up against Porsche ace Jörg Bergmeister – who had closed in to within seconds of the Ford – Bleekemolen flexed his muscles and put it down. A late pitstop for Bergmeister secured victory for Keating Motorsports.

“It was stressful at the end,” team-owner and driver Ben Keating told Radio Le Mans. “I’m so proud of everyone. It was an unbelievable race, we stuck to our strategy and kept it clean – for the most part.”

UPDATE 17 JUNE: The #85 Keating Motorsports Ford GT has been disqualified after post-race scrutineering for breach of the fuel tank capacity regulations. Team Project 1 is promoted to the win in GTE-Am.

TOP 5

  1. #56 Team Project 1 Porsche (Jörg Bergmeister/Patrick Lindsey/Egidio Perfetti)
  2. #84 JMW Motorsport Ferrari (Rodrigo Baptista/Wei Lu/Jeff Segal)
  3. #62 WeatherTech Racing Ferrari (Cooper MacNeil/Robert Smith/Toni Vilander)
  4. #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche (Julien Andlauer/Matt Campbell/Christian Ried)
  5. #57 Car Guy Racing Ferrari (Takeshi Kimura/Kei Cozzolino/Côme Ledogar)
 
 

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