Toyota secured its second victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans dominating the endurance race with a 1-2 finish. The manufacturer's No. 8 TS050 piloted by Fernando Alonso, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima drove the car to victory after taking the lead from sister car No. 7 with drivers Mike Conway, Jose Maria Lopez and Kamui Kobayashi with just an hour of the race remaining. The No. 7 did lead for most of the 24 hour race, but suffered two punctures that dropped the car to second place in the closing stages. In addition to the 24 Hour Le Mans win, the No. 8 car crew have also been crowned world endurance champions with Nakajima driving the final stint and has become the first Japanese to win the title.
The No. 8 Toyota was in second place until the final hour gaff on No. 7 catapulted this one to the top
The No. 7 TS050 Toyota Hybrid seemed to have an edge over the No. 7 car for most of the race and had the chequered flag in site with a consistent lead. However, problems started once the clock hit the final hour. With a gap of two minutes over car No. 7, the No. 8's steering wheel pointed out that Lopez had a puncture prompting him to pit to replace the suspected front-right tyre. However, it turned out to be the rear-right tyre that needed a replacement, which forced a second pitstop with minutes left in the 24 hour race. The No. 7 Toyota lost the lead over its sister car, only to rejoin behind No. 8 with a gap of 50s. The car No. 7 eventually finished 16s behind the car No. 8 after the latter made its final pitstop driven by Nakajima with 20 minutes to go.
Coming in third were Stoffel Vandoorne, Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin in the No. 11 SMP Racing BR Engineering car, finishing six laps behind the No. 8 Toyota. The SMP Racing car had a trouble free run to P3, ensuring the team managed to beat the other non-hybrid cars in the LMP1 class, beating its main rival - Rebellion racing - which suffered issues with both the R-13 cars.
The No. 3 Rebellion survived a crash with driver Thomas Laurent without too much loss, but had tough luck after driver Gustavo Menezes beached the car into gravel at the Porsche curves with just over six hours to go. The incident put the car into the pits a number of times during the race dropping the Rebellion to P5, 15 laps down over the race leader. The No. 1 Rebellion with drivers Neel Jani, Bruno Senna and Andre Lotterer recovered to finish at P4 after dropping out of contention briefly before night fell. The other privateers including SMP, DragonSpeed BR1 and the ByKolles could not survive the race by sunrise
In the LMP2 Class, the Signatech Alpine driven by Nicolas Lapierre, Pierre Thiriet and Andre Negrao secured the win in their No. 36 Alpine branded Oreca, also securing the WEC class championship victory in the process. The early stages of the race saw a battle between Matthieu Vaxiviere in the TDS Racing No. 28 Oreca, with Nicolas Lapierre in the Signatech Alpine No. 36 Alpine and Jean-Eric Vergne in the G-Drive Racing No. 26 Aurus 01-Gibson. While G-Drive Racing dominated the race in the early stages, the team hit trouble as the No. 26 Aurus 01 refused to start after the 28th stop losing 20 minutes in Hour 19.
This allowed the No. 36 car to lead to victory unchallenges, while allowing the No. 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca with drivers Ho-Pin Tung, Stephane Richelmi and Gabriel Aubry to take second place. The third place was taken by the polesitting No. 28 TDS Oreca with drivers Loic Duval, Matthieu Vaxiviere and Francois Perrodo, after Pastor Maldonado crashed the No. 31 DragonSpeed Oreca with less than seven hours left. Coming in fourth was the United Autosports LMP2 car with Phil Hanson, Paul di Resta and Filipe Albuquerque, finishing two laps down, ahead of the IDEC Sport Oreca and the G-Drive Racing car that recovered to sixth four laps down after the issue.
GTE Pro Class
It was a bitter-sweet end to the GTE Pro class as Ferrari secured its first win the category since 2014, whereas the Chevrolet Corvette C7.Rs failed to conquer Le Mans in what could be its final campaign. The Ferrari scored its win with drivers James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Daniel Serra in the No. 51 AF Corse 488 GTE. The early stages of the race had the No. 51, Ferrari, No. 63 Corvette C7.R, No. 92 and No. 93 Porsche 911 RSRs at the top, while the No. 68 and No. 69 Ford GTs trailed behind. However, a string of safety car period juggled the order with the No. 92 Porsche and No. 51 488 GTE getting away from the rest of the pack.
Meanwhile, Aston Martin had a largely forgettable run at Le Mans this year with the No. 97 Vantage with Alex Lynn going off in the karting curve, while Marco Sorensen in the No. 95 Aston Martin made a similar mistake and limped back to the pits, triggering the safety cars on both occasions.
By early morning, the No. 92 Porsche faced an exhaust issue and dropped from P2 leaving any chance of defending its 2018 win. This made way for a fantastic battle between the No. 51 Ferrari and the No. 63 Corvette C7.R. However, the second Corvette with Jan Magnuseen behind the wheel hit the wall shortly after 12.00 noon ending all hopes for the American sports car. The final battle was a head-to-head between Ferrari and Porsche with the former bringing the title home. A fitting way to celebrate the Italian manufacturer's 70th anniversary at Le Mans 24 Hours.
1 - Toyota Gazoo Racing No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid - Sebastien Buemi / Kazuki Nakajima / Fernando Alonso
2 - Toyota Gazoo Racing No. 7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid - Mike Conway / Kamui Kobayashi / Jose Maria Lopez
3 - BR Engineering BR1-AER No. 3 SMP RACING - Mikhail Aleshin / Stoffel Vandoorne / Vitaly Petrov
1 - Signatech Alpine Matmut No. 36 Alpine A470 - Nicolas Lapierre / Andre Negrao / Pierre Thiriet
2 - Jackie Chan DC Racing No. 38 Oreca 07 - Gabriel Aubry / Stephane Richelmi / Ho-Pin Tung
3 - TDS Racing No. 28 Oreca 07 - Loic Duval / Francois Perrodo / Matthieu Vaxiviere
GTE Pro Class
1 - AF Corse No. 51 Ferrari 488 GTE - James Calado / Alessandro Pier Guidi / Daniel Serra
2 - Porsche GT Team No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR - Gianmaria Bruni / Richard Lietz / Frederic Makowiecki
3 - Porsche GT Team No. 93 Porsche 911 RSR - Earl Bamber / Patrick Pilet / Nick Tandy