Ferrari wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans after a 50-year absence; NASCAR entry ends

Le MansFerrari

Le MansFerrari

LE MANS, France — Ferrari ended a 50-year absence from the 24 Hours of Le Mans by overturning the mighty Toyota in the centenary run of the world’s most iconic sports car race.

Ferrari last competed at Le Mans in 1973, but returned to the Circuit de la Sarthe this year as part of a new superclass category featuring hybrid technology.

The Hyperclass grew out of a convergence of rules that both allowed competitors from America’s top sports car series, IMSA, to compete at Le Mans, and also created an attractive platform for car manufacturers, seen as an opportunity to showcase their tram technology.

Ferrari developed its program – a two-car effort that competes in the World Endurance Championship – over several years in a strategy similar to what was depicted in “Ford v Ferrari”, the film which focused on the pressures of the boardroom and the drama surrounding Ford’s 1963 success effort to end Ferrari’s reign at Le Mans.

Only this time it was Ferrari trying to take down a giant; Toyota Gazoo’s two-car effort, which had entered the two-clock race that ended Sunday on a five-game winning streak.

Toyota received a blow before the race even started when race officials this week added extra weight to the towering GR010s in a controversial “balance of performance” tweak designed to level the playing field.

Ferrari in a pair of 499Ps leapt and swept the front row in qualifying and overcame all of Toyota’s challenges. His chances were boosted overnight when Kamui Kobayashi was knocked out of the race, making it two to one in Ferrari’s favour.

The trio of Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado and Antonio Giovinazzi – with Ferrari Formula 1 driver Charles Leclerc in the garage watching – were the easy winners. The trio had a solid lead even before defending winner Ryō Hirakawa locked the brakes on his Toyota and hit the wall with 1 hour and 44 minutes remaining.

It took about 3 minutes to repair the car, not enough time to help Chip Ganassi Racing, who carried the American flag to Le Mans for IMSA.

The centenary marked the first year that IMSA’s top class was allowed to compete at Le Mans, and the new superclass brought Cadillac back to both IMSA and WEC with Ganassi, as well as Porsche with Roger Penske in the 86-year-old’s attempt to win one of the very few races missing from his list.

It also sparked a new interest among manufacturers in sports car racing, which helped draw a sold-out crowd of over 300,000 spectators to the sprawling 8.467-mile (13.626 km) track.

Ganassi’s Cadillacs were third and fourth when Hirakawa spun, eliminating the defending champions’ chances on a repeat. But it briefly created an opportunity for one or both Cadillacs to improve their end position.

Toyota executed its pitstop perfectly and the Cadillacs didn’t gain any ground. Last place on the podium was the WEC team of Earl Bamber, Alex Lynn and Richard Westbrook, with the IMSA team of Le Mans native Sebastien Bourdais, Renger van der Zande and Scott Dixon finishing fourth.

Ferrari’s second car finished fifth, one place ahead of Team Penske’s top-ranked Porsche. His other two 963s were both retired early.

The third Cadillac, entered by Action Express Racing excluding IMSA, crashed on the first lap of the race and never entered the race. This team is backed by IMSA and NASCAR owner Jim France, who successfully brought a production car to Le Mans to represent the American series in its 75th anniversary season.

NASCAR was last present at Le Mans in 1976 and returned this year with a version of its second-year Next Gen car. The “Garage 56” Camaro was fielded by Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, the winningest team, manufacturer and tire supplier in NASCAR’s 75th anniversary.

The #24 Camaro was in a class of its own against no other car.

The original goal was simply to finish the race and showcase NASCAR, the Chad Knaus-led project was so exceptional that until a brake issue with about five hours remaining, it looked like the lineup of seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, 2009 Formula One champion Jenson Button and former Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller could actually beat the entire field of 21 GTE AM cars.

The time to fix the brakes took that off the table, and it felt like a bummer for all that NASCAR had accomplished. The car had a subsequent problem which required a gearbox change, but the engine lasted the distance and the car crossed under the checkered flag for a champagne celebration for the NASCAR effort.

The car finished 39th in the 62-car field, enough for 10th among GTE cars. The Camaro was second when it had to pull over to change its brakes.

It was always an impressive finish for the NASCAR draft as the Garage 56 entrance rarely took the checkered flag.

Ferrari wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans after a 50-year absence; NASCAR entry finishes originally appeared on

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