Ferrari won the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans and fourth round of the FIA WEC, before a record crowd of 325,000 spectators. Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado and Antonio Giovinazzi steered the Ferrari 499P Hypercar to victory.
Hypercar: uncertain to the end
The long-awaited Centenary event delivered on its bold promises, with heady entertainment on and off the track throughout the event. Suspense ran high throughout, with battles, bumps and run-offs keeping fans and teams on their toes until the very last lap on Sunday. The 100-year-old race had the last word, as always. Le Mans chose to crown Ferrari as the winner. The win comes 58 years after the manufacturer’s previous victory in the Sarthe.
All eyes were on the Hypercars when LeBron James waved the cars off at 16:00 on Saturday, with more contenders than ever. With 16 cars on the grid, the top tier was a thrilling combination of quality and quantity. Seven manufacturers were represented – Ferrari, Porsche, Toyota, Cadillac, Peugeot, Glickenhaus and Vanwall – with most fielding début models.
The first few metres confirmed impressions formed during free practice and qualifying. The Ferrari 499P and Toyota GR010 Hybrid Hypercars were both fast and immaculately prepared. After starting in third place, Sébastien Buemi shot straight into the lead in the #8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid before reaching Indianapolis. Mike Conway was just as determined in the sister car. The start of the Ferrari-Toyota duel perhaps? No. Not yet. The first few hours of the race were marked by inhabitual upset.
The #8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid and the #51 Ferrari 499P kept everybody guessing until the final stretch. An inexhaustible tit for tat pursued as the two heavyweight marques went blow for blow. The race found its pace.
Today’s win brings Ferrari’s victories to a round 10, topping off their previous titles earned in 1949, 1954, 1958 and from 1960 to 1965. Winning the “race of the century” is particularly special. The Maranello-based firm will have the added privilege of keeping the unique Centenary Trophy, specially made by the Monnaie de Paris in conjunction with Rolex, major partner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
LMP2: Inter Europol Competition, consistency pays
Idec Sport’s #48 Oreca 07-Gibson driven by Paul-Loup Chatin held on to its class pole position as the race got underway. Robert Kubica in the #41 Oreca 07-Gibson for Team WRT and Pietro Fittipaldi in the #28 Oreca 07-Gibson fielded by JOTA were hot on his heels, piling on the pressure for a hotly contested LMP2 battle. It wasn’t long until one of the favourites took a blow. The Prema #63 Oreca 07-Gibson was forced to rethink its strategy and bring the car in to the pits due to debris picked up on the track. A crash at the Pont corner with Daniil Kvyat doing a night stint (01:39) saw the car retire. The #34 Oreca 07-Gibson of Inter Europol Competition driven by Jakub Smiechowski, Albert Costa and Fabio Scherer, stepped up and held on to its top-three position for the rest of the race. Despite a drive-through penalty on Sunday and an escapade into the gravel at Mulsanne for Albert Costa at 09:00, the Polish team didn’t budge, staying clear of any accidents or incidents that would hamper its chances. Experience took the upper hand to beat landmark contender Team WRT.
LMGTE Am: Corvette Racing, the ultimate victory
The final appearance of the Grand Tourism Endurance (GTE) class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans before the arrival of GT3 set the stage for a tense race. The LMGTE Am morphed into a race for survival, beleaguered by accidents and technical hitches that got the better of many contenders – 12 of the 21 cars entered didn’t go the distance. A relentless tussle for top place in which the Iron Dames – Sarah Bovy, Michelle Gatting and Rahel Frey – played a dominant part, although ultimately the Corvette drivers ended up on top.
Innovation class popular with race fans
The return of the innovative car class Stand 56 announced in February 2022 saw the 24 Hours of the Le Mans welcome NASCAR, organiser of one of the major American motorsport competitions. The collaboration strengthens the bond between the Sarthe and the United States. The public were smitten with the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, its illustrious line-up (Jenson Button, Mike Rockenfeller and Jimmie Johnson) and the distinctive sound of its V8 engine. The car overcame a flurry of late-stage mechanical problems to finish the race. What a feat! By Melissa Warren