Fernando Alonso’s pre-race prediction that “Le Mans chooses who wins” proved remarkably accurate, as drama marked the end of the 87th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans WEC endurance race this weekend.
With just over an hour to go in the lengthy battle, the No. 7 Toyota TS050 hybrid car of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez had the race in hand, with a comfortable lead over the No. 8 sister car, piloted by Fernando Alonso, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima.
Then, disaster. A tire puncture forced Lopez into the pits, a sensor indicating a right-front tire puncture. The tire was quickly changed and Lopez returned to the track, only to discover it was the right rear tire that was damaged. Pit crews botched the next tire change, and the resultant loss of time allowed Nakajima to take the chequered flag 16 seconds ahead of the sister car.
The victory would be Alonso’s second straight at Le Mans, the first driver since 1939 to hold a perfect win record at Circuit de le Sarthe across multiple starts. It would also guarantee them FIA World Endurance Championship honours.
Rounding out the LMP1 class podium were Stoffel Vandoorne, Vitaly Petrov and Mikhall Aleshin in the third-placed SMP Racing prototype.
Le Mans proved an uphill struggle for the Jackie Chan DC Racing team, with both cars slowly battling from mid-way on the grid to second and third place in the LMP2 class by the 11th hour, chasing the dominant Signatech Alpine car.
A gearbox failure would send Fortunecat37 driven by Ricky Taylor, David Heinemeier-Hansson and Jordan King to the pits on lap 199, ending their race. But, Stephane Richelmi, Ho-Pin Tung and Gabriel Aubry would fight on in Mighty38, to finish second in the class behind Nicolas Lapierre, Andre Negrao and Pierre Thiriet, who also sealed their first WEC title.
Jackie Chan’s JOTA-run crew fell behind the leaders in hour 18 when Aubry slowed suddenly on the Mulsanne straight, appearing to have run out of gas, and losing a minute getting back to the pits. The car spent much of the rest of the race one lap adrift, albeit well clear of the third-placed TDS ORECA of Matthieu Vaxiviere, Loic Duval and Francois Perrodo.
Any chance of Corvette salvaging a podium finish in GTE Pro was lost when Jan Magnussen spun at the Porsche Curves, hitting the barriers and forcing lengthy repairs, handing victory to the AF Corse Ferrari 488. Racing for the last time at Le Mans, none of Ford’s factory GT’s made the podium, but all would finish the race.
In the GTE Am class, Keating Motorsport would claim victory in the Wynn-livery Ford GT, beating out two Porsche challengers.