Ferrari has won the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans as it returned to the Circuit de la Sarthe for the first time in 50 years as a factory prototype outfit. The #51 AF Corse Ferrari 499P driven by Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado and Antonio Giovinazzi took the Italian manufacturer’s tenth overall victory at Le Mans after a drama-filled 24 hours.
The Ferrari 499Ps held off the strong challenge of five-time champions Toyota and fellow newcomers Cadillac and Peugeot to win by three minutes. The AF Corse-entered squad also had numerous safety cars and heavy rain showers to contend with, but put together the cleanest race of all the Hypercar entries to take the win at the centenary Le Mans.
“It’s an amazing feeling to win this race,” said Calado. “The team did an amazing job. The track was amazing, honestly. It feels so special to drive: the balance, the performance, the engine, the way it works were superb.”
The 2023 Le Mans victory marks Ferrari’s tenth overall success in the French endurance classic, and the first since Masten Gregory and Jochen Rindt’s in 1965.
“This has been an unforgettable day that I’d like to dedicate to everyone at Ferrari,” added Chairman of Ferrari John Elkan. “After 50 years we have returned to compete in the highest category of endurance racing that has a place at the very heart of our story and that of all motorsport.”
The battle for the overall win remained a close-run affair into the final hours of the race at the Circuit de la Sarthe. Going into their final stints, only a handful of seconds separated the #8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid of Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa and the race-leading #51 Ferrari.
A mistake by Hirakawa with just under two hours to go handed the #51 crew a large lead of almost one lap. All signs pointed to a comfortable victory. However, even after 23 hours of incident and drama, the Vingt-Quartre Heures had one more twist up its sleeve: The #51‘s engine failed to start during two of the car’s pit stops, evoking memories of Toyota’s downfall in 2016. On both occasions, the team admirably kept their cool, with Pier Guidi able to complete a power cycle and resume the race.
With so much hype surrounding the 100th anniversary of the first 24-hour race in Le Mans, there were justified concerns that the race wouldn’t be able to live up to its billing. However, after Ferrari’s hard-fought victory against established challengers and newcomers alike, the 2023 edition will live long in the memory as one of the finest races ever held at this hallowed circuit.
Inter Europol take LMP2 glory
The #34 Inter Europol Oreca was victorious in the LMP2 in another close-fought class battle. Drivers Fabio Scherer, Jakub Śmiechowski and Albert Costa put together a flawless performance to seal the team’s first-ever WEC victory and the first Le Mans win for a Polish-flagged car.
Scherer was arguably the star of the 2023 24 Hours. The young Swiss driver piloted the #34 machine for 158 laps with an injured foot after it was run over by the #33 Corvette at the first set of pit stops.
Second position in LMP2 went to the #41 Team WRT entry of Rui Andrade, Louis Delétraz and Robert Kubica. The #41 Oreca was within striking distance of the #34 in the final hour but had to pit for a final splash of fuel and settle for second.
Third place went to the #30 Duqueine Team car of Neel Jani, Rene Binder and Nico Binder. Jani was able to bring the car home safely despite the Oreca’s suspension braking on the final lap.
2023 Le Mans victory for Corvette in final year of GTE
Corvette Racing bowed out of GTE racing at Le Mans with a win in the GTE Am category. The #33 C8.R, driven by Ben Keating, Nicky Catsburg and Nico Varrone were the class of the GTE Am field and came through with a convincing win despite numerous setbacks over the course of the race.
With GT3 machinery set to debut at the Circuit de la Sarthe in 2024, Corvette’s victory brought a fitting end to the manufacturer’s long history in GTE racing at Le Mans.
The #25 ORT by TF Aston Martin finished the race in second position. The #86 GR Racing Porsche made it three different manufacturers on the podium with third place for Mike Wainwright, Ben Barker and Ricardo Pera.
The #85 Iron Dames Porsche had been in major contention for a podium, but an unexpected front brake change scuppered the team’s chances of a top-three finish.
A full list of results can be found here.
The next round of the 2023 FIA World Endurance Championship takes place on the weekend of 8–9 July in Monza, Italy.