Ferrari take dramatic victory in 2024 Le Mans

Ferrari AF Corse made it two victories in two years at the 2024 Le Mans 24 Hours in a dramatic and close-fought battle. The #50 499P of Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina and Niklas Nielsen edged the #7 Toyota of Jos茅 Maria L贸pez, Kamui Kobayashi and Nyck de Vries by a margin of just 14 seconds.

Third was last year鈥檚 winning car, the #51 Ferrari of James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Antonio Giovinazzi. The pair of works Porsches and the sister Toyota rounded off the top six.

Der Start des Rennens in Le Mans

Porsche, Ferrari and Toyota make the early running

Poleman K茅vin Estre in the #6 Porsche Penske Motorsport 963 led the cars off at the front of the largest top-class field in living memory, with Cadillac and the pair of works Ferraris chasing hard behind. Estre was overtaken on lap one by the #50 Ferrari as Dane Niklas Nielsen made a rapid start to the race.

It soon became clear that both Ferrari and Porsche would offer strong pace at the 2024 running of the endurance classic. However, Cadillac and Toyota were also in strong contention in the opening hours of the race.

Conditions remained dry for the opening of the race, but after 90 minutes the first of many showers swept across the race track. The changeable conditions made choosing the right strategy a nightmare for teams up and down the grid, and many were caught on the wrong tyres at certain points during the 24 hours.

Der Ferrari #83

Privateer Ferrari comes to the fore

Gambling on strategy during the first burst of rain, both works Ferraris lost significant time remaining on dry tyres while others changed for wets. The decision handed the advantage to the #83 AF Corse 499P of Robert Kubica, Robert Shwartzmann and Yifei Ye, who led by just under a minute at the six-hour stage.

The leader was then involved in the first major incident involving Hypercars. Under the challenge of Dries Vanthoor in the #15 BMW M HYBRID V8 coming into Mulsanne Corner, Kubica jinked to the right and made contact with the Belgian. The #15 BMW careered into the barriers and into retirement. Kubica was handed a 30-second stop-and-go penalty due to the incident, which saw the #83 car relinquish the lead.

The accident brought out the first of three safety car periods as damage to the barrier was repaired. After around 90 minutes of neutralisation, the race restarted at midnight local time as another rain shower hit the circuit.

Cadillac und Porsche

Toyota and Porsche take up the fight

After the setbacks for Ferrari, it was the Toyotas and the factory Porsches that began to exert their dominance. At the eight-hour stage, the #8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid of S茅bastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa led from the #6 Porsche Penske Motorsport 963 of Laurens Vanthoor, Andre Lotterer and K茅vin Estre.

The #8 and #6 spent most of the night in lockstep, pitting on the same lap for much of the early hours. Only the slight differences in strategy, whether stops were fuel-only or involved a full service, saw the gaps fluctuate, as both cars proved to be very evenly matched.

Safety car called after heavy rain

The next shower arrived at 3:30聽am local time, and this time the precipitation was much more significant. Although there were no major incidents on track to speak of, the race director made the decision to bring out the safety to neutralise the race.

Conditions barely improved for a number of hours, but the race continued to be run under safety car conditions rather than be red flagged (which has famously never happened). In total, the safety-car period extended over 4 hours and brought the race into the daylight.

Eight hour sprint race to finish

With the field bunched up behind the safety car, the race was essentially reset with eight hours remaining. Favourites at this point were the #8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid, with Buemi, Hirakawa and Hartley completing their stints metronomically.

The Porsche #6 remained within striking distance of the lead Toyota, with Ferrari also rising back into contention as the #50, #51 and #83 cars performed faultlessly. Disaster then struck for the #83 machine, with a hybrid issue forcing the car into the pits and early retirement with just over four hours remaining.

As the race entered its denouement, the #8 Toyota had been joined at the head of the field by the sister car after a spirited performance by Kobayashi, L贸pez and de Vries. The pair began to detach themselves from the rest of the field along with the #6 Porsche and the #50 and #51 Ferraris. The #2 Cadillac, running a different strategy to the others was also in contention.

Although nine cars remained on the lead lap, it appeared likely that the winner would emerge from the top six.

Three-way battle for the ages

Fans were then treated to one of the most spectacular battles for the lead in recent memory, with the leaders separated by just a handful of seconds. In one of the key moments of the race, the #51 Ferrari then made contact with the #8 Toyota into Mulsanne Corner and sent driver Brendon Hartley into a spin. The time loss took the Toyota out of contention, and the #51 car鈥檚 five second penalty also dashed any hopes it had of taking the win.

That left the #7 Toyota to battle it out with the #50 Ferrari for the victory. With further rain making the track damp, driver of the #7 car Jos茅 Mar铆a L贸pez had a number of off-track moments as he attempted to better the #50 car as the clock ticked down.

Drama then befell the Ferrari effort, as the door on the right side of the car was not properly closed after a pit stop. Despite driver Nick Nielsen鈥檚 attempts to shut it, the car was forced into the pits off schedule. However, with only 50 minutes of the race remaining, there was a chance that the 499P would be able to make it to the finish.

Ferrari鈥檚 travails handed the initiative to Toyota, but L贸pez knew that he would have to pit one more time before the chequered flag and that, crucially, the gap to the second-placed Ferrari wasn鈥檛 large enough to retain the lead. With Nielsen in energy-save mode, there was a chance that L贸pez could make up the 45 or so seconds, but it was a tough ask for the Argentine.

Nielsen makes it home for Ferrari glory

Ultimately Niklas Nielsen timed his final stint perfectly, crossing the line with just 2% of his energy allocation remaining, 14 seconds ahead of the hard-charging Toyota. It was Ferrari鈥檚 second win in succession at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and its 11th overall.

Toyota came home in second for the second year in a row, and will be wondering what might have been after the contact from the #51 car dashed Hartley, Buemi and Hirakawa鈥檚 hopes.

Despite the best efforts of the #6 Porsche, the #51 Ferrari made it home in third position to hand the Prancing Horse a second podium spot and some important points in the battle for the WEC championship.

The #8 Toyota came home in 5th, followed by the #5 Porsche in 6th. Cadillac finished in 7th, closely followed by the #12 and #38 Hertz Team Jota Porsches, as the top nine cars finished on the lead lap (a new record for the race).

Newcomers impress

What of the other Hypercar entrants? Well, Lamborghini marked their first ever appearance in the top class of the 24 Hours of Le Mans with an impressive P10 and P13. Between the pair of SC63s were the pair of Peugeot 9X8, who endured another chastening 24 heures.

The #11 Isotta Fraschini came home in 14th position in what must be seen as a success for the new team. The Tipo 6-C suffered no major issues or incidents, finishing 9 laps off the lead.

Alpine suffered two engine failures despite showing pace at times during the race. Firstly Ferdinand Habsburg was left stranded at Arnage as the power unit in his A242 seized with a dramatic puff of smoke after four and a half hours of the race. An hour later, it was curtains for the #36 car with what appeared to be a similar issue.

BMW also suffered a double DNF on their return to the top category at Le Mans for the first time since 1999. The #15 M HYBRID V8 retired after being hit by the #83 Ferrari, while the #20 鈥渁rt car鈥 pitted during the evening and spent most of the race in the pits, before emerging late on Sunday and taking the chequered flag (but not being classified).

Wins for United Autorsports and Manthey Racing in the other classes

United Autosports took the win in the LMP2 category at the 2024 Le Mans 24 Hours, with the #22 Oreca finishing around 20 seconds ahead of the reigning champions in the shape of the #34 Inter Europol effort. Experienced Brit Oliver Jarvis performed excellently alongside young Americans Nolan Siegel and Bijoy Garg to take a memorable win for the British-entered crew.

Manthey Racing took the spoils in the first appearance of the LMGT3 category at Le Mans. The #91 911 GT3 R of Yassir Shahin, Morris Schuring and Richard Lietz sealed the win after a tough battle against the BMWs and Fords. Second was the #31 Team WRT of Darren Leung, Sean Gelael and Augusto Farfus.

You can look back through the race in real in our live text, and a full list of results from the 2024 Le Mans 24 Hours is available here.

Images 漏 Walter Schruff / Maksym Lobachov