Ferrari has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the first time ever in almost 60 years in a dramatic 100th anniversary edition of the French endurance classi snapping Toyota’s winning record of five consecutive races.
Ferrari prevailed in a close battle with Toyota throughout the entire race to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans, giving the Italian manufacturer its first victory in the historic endurance race since 1965.
This year, Ferrari returned to the top division of endurance racing after joining the FIA World Endurance Championship’s newly established Hypercar category with the all-new Ferrari 499P.
The #50 Ferrari was driven by Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina, and Nicklas Nielsen, while the #51 Ferrari was driven by James Calado, Antonio Giovinazzi, and Alessandro Pier Guidi in the first three rounds of the 2023 WEC season.
Fuoco earned the pole position for the 100th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans by turning the quickest lap in the 30-minute shootout. However, due to a fluid leak in the energy recovery system, the #50 Ferrari’s technical issues caused Fuoco, Nielsen, and Molina to lose several laps overnight.
Forecasts for Sunday called for pleasant weather, with dry and bright conditions welcome the teams on the second day of the race. In the first portion of the race, rain showers had made section of the track treacherous, upsetting the strategy of many teams.
Alessandro Pier Guidi drove the No. 51 AF Corse-run Ferrari 499P to a 1-minute 21-second victory against the No. 8 Ryo Hirakawa Toyota GR010 Hybrid following a nearly race-long battle between the two factory Hypercar behemoths.
With 1 hour and 45 minutes left, Hirakawa’s Toyota, which was trailing the Ferrari by less than 20 seconds, experienced a brake lock-up at Arnage, causing damage to the nose and rear deck, which gave the Italian manufacturer a clear path to the finish line.
The incident required Hirakawa to pull over and change Toyota’s bodywork, but the Japanese driver was able to maintain second place, ahead of Earl Bamber’s No. 2 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac V-Series.R which finished third.
Pier Guidi shared first place with fellow Le Mans GTE-Pro class winner James Calado and former Formula 1 driver Antonio Giovinazzi. This was also the 499P’s first victory in just its fourth event of FIA World Endurance Championship.
The win was Ferrari’s tenth overall Le Mans victory and their first since 1965, when Jochen Rindt, Masten Gregory, and Ed Hugus drove the American NART team’s Ferrari 250 LM to victory.
The No. 50 Ferrari started on pole, but Sebastien Buemi in the No. 8 Toyota quickly took the lead and maintained position despite two early race safety cars, the second due to a downpour that caused several LMP2 and GTE-Am cars to be wiped out.
The Toyota vs. Ferrari battle came to an end just before the halfway point when Kamui Kobayashi crashed into the No. 65 JMW Motorsport Ferrari 488 GTE and two LMP2 cars in the ninth hour, forcing the No. 7 Toyota to retire. Antonio Fuoco lost five laps and the No. 50 Ferrari was forced to retire from the race in the tenth hour after a stone perforated the radiator.
The thrilling race was decided by Ferrari’s apparent pace advantage in the morning hours, but was briefly derailed by a long pit stop for Calado in the 17th hour due to a power cycle that briefly put Buemi back in the lead. The lead was constantly changing, and the Nos. 51 and 8 cars were frequently running split strategies.
In the meantime, the No. 8 Toyota battled back after suffering a right-rear puncture as well as a nose change in the 16th hour, following reports that Hirakawa hit a squirrel, just before the Japanese drivers’ brakes locked up barely two hours left.
The No.2 Cadillac driven by Earl Bamber, Richard Westbrook, and Alex Lynn finished third in the LMDh platform’s Le Mans debut. The No. 3 CGR entry, which is based in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and is driven by Renger van der Zande, Sebastien Bourdais, and Scott Dixon, finished fourth.
This happened in spite of Bourdais having to stop as he entered a slow zone in the second hour, which was brought on by Ulysse de Pauw’s No. 21 AF Corse Ferrari.
The No. 50 Ferrari driven by Fuoco and his co-drivers Miguel Molina and Nicklas Nielsen finished fifth. They were followed by the two Glickenhaus 007 Pipos, which had largely trouble-free runs aside from separate spins at Indianapolis and a late-race spin for Franck Mailleux in the No. 709 finished sixt and seventh respectively.
Two of the three factory Porsche 963s from Porsche Penske Motorsport finished the race, but also all three encountered several problems.
Dane Cameron’s deviation from the path at the Porsche Curves cost the No. 5 Porsche time in the fifth hour, and Michael Christensen had to spend 30 minutes in the garage in the tenth hour fixing a leaking coolant line.
With 32 minutes left, trouble struck once more when Christensen slowed down on the track and hobbled into the pits after placing fifth. On the very last lap, porsche made a comeback and finished tenth.
The No. 6 Porsche was initially one lap down due to a right-rear puncture, but a crash caused by Kevin Estre at the Porsche Curves damaged the car’s floor and prompted a 45-minute stop for repairs in the 17th hour. A problem with the high-voltage system of the car two hours later made things worse. The car placed 11th in its class and 22nd overall.
After Mathieu Jaminet stopped on the circuit with fuel pressure concerns in the eighth hour, the No. 75 Porsche which included crew and drivers from Porsche Penske’s WeatherTech Championship team marked the first Hypercar to retire.
The No. 93 Peugeot 9X8 finished eighth following late-race hydraulic troubles that forced both of the French LMH cars to the garage.
In the sister No. 94 Peugeot, Gustavo Menezes led the race for 34 laps mostly in the changing weather conditions. However, shortly before the halfway point, he crashed into the tire barriers at the Daytona Chicane, ending his chances of finishing on the podium in the Le Mans debut of the car.
The customer Porsche under Hertz Team JOTA saw numerous mishaps including Yifei Ye’s crash out of the lead in the fifth hour which caused a significantly delayed race for the British team and required multiple visits to the garage.
Meanwhile, Jack Aitken was involved in two crashes involving the No. 311 Action Express Racing Cadillac, including one on the first lap when he slammed into the wall at the second chicane while racing in wet conditions. The British-Korean driver had to pull the vehicle back to the garage for repairs.
It placed clear of the delayed No. 94 Peugeot, No. 6 Porsche, and No. 38 JOTA entrants, the sole remaining LMP2 finishers, to place 17th overall and tenth in class.