Extraordinarily all 12 drivers that stood on top of the overall and class podiums are first time winners here!
Ultimately after all the hype, all the tittle tattle over Equivalence of Technology, it’s fairness, transparency or otherwise, the reality is that the Toyotas were near faultless, the best car, and the best team won. We’ll come to the drivers later!
Toyota has finished second overall at Le Mans three times in the past seven attempts, twice in the Hybrid era and once in 1999 with the now iconic GT-One, plus a pair of further second place finishes in the twilight years of Group C in 1992 and 1995 .
They therefore finish second here for a sixth time, but to the delight of all concerned, they take the win too in a race that brings to mind the near fault-free performance of the Bentley effort in 2003.
The Toyota Gazoo Racing Team, and their spectacular TS050, is a deserved winner of the race, and that win will just endorse a further commitment from the Japanese marque to endurance racing in the future, a global arena where their technology can be displayed in terms of both pure performance, and efficiency.
For the drivers, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima take their first overall wins, both men loyal servants of the Japanese-funded, Cologne-based effort.
Much of the media coverage of this win will inevitably focus, some of it to an overly simplistic degree, on the triumph for Fernando Alonso, be reassured that the double F1 World Champion likely shares the mild distaste for that media tactic.
We’ll take the outlook here that the achievement should be celebrated both as a great Champions’ latest career achievement, and that it inevitably brings more attention not just from mainstream media, but with the new friends that likely brings to the spectator banks, TV audiences and potential commercial partners.
The reaction of the F1 world will be mighty interesting!
Toyota came home with a 1,2, the #7 car featuring Jose Maria Lopez who claims a first Le Mans podium, Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway claiming a second second place apiece.
Amongst the privateer non-hybrid LMP1s it is clear that the path of least resistance was the least obstructed!
ORECA’s major redesign of their successful LMP2 product into the Rebellion R13 with less weight, better aero, more fuel and more power was simply too good with, for the most part too much speed, and most certainly more reliability than the other contenders, Rebellion then score a long awaited overall podium, after a pair of overall fourth places, and a disqualification from an overall podium with their LMP2 Oreca last year.
That brings two men to the overall podium for the first time in the #3 effort, Gustavo Menezes and Matthias Beche, and a return to the overall podium for Thomas Laurent after second place overall last year as part of the Jackie Chan DC Racing Team.
LMP2 promised a potential battle of the chassis, and of the tyre manufacturers, albeit with the ORECAs still looking dominant in the run-up to the race proper.
Taking the tyre war between Michelin and Dunlop first, it looked set, in terms of podium finishes, to go to the wire until late in the race when both the #23 Panis Barthez Ligier and #48 IDEC Sport Oreca stumbled.
That left a Dunlop-dominated top six, a sextet which also saw only one non-ORECA chassis, this the #32 United Autosports Ligier.
The 2018 race saw a first win for G-Drive in six attempts, this year with TDS Racing, the French team finally scoring a win after a second place back in 2014.
All three drivers too score their first Le Mans 24 Hours class win, Roman Rusinov taking a first win at Le Mans to extend his record LMP2 race winning total in the FIA WEC to 18 (in a year that he is not a full season entry!)
Andrea Pizzitola also takes a first Le Mans win too, the talented Silver-ranked Frenchman providing real pace here.
The talents of Jean-Eric Vergne though provided the real punch that saw the early advantage for the team defended with most vigour, put simply this was a race that the team, and all three drivers deserved to win.
The Signatech Alpine Team score another Le Mans podium, their third in three years after a win in 2016 and third in class, fourth overall last year.
Tristan Gommendy pushed very hard at the very end to fend off the attack from TDS Racing and Löic Duval to secure the first Le Mans podium for Graff Racing/SO24, and his third class podium, after 2017’s overall podium with JCDC, the #39 Oreca shared with a pair of Le Mans podium first timers, Jonathan Hirschi and the pantomime villain of last year’s race, Vincent Capillaire.
GTE Pro was another race that saw a lot of pre-event tittle tattle, this time almost exclusively around Balance of Performance. There’s one remaining tale on that front and we’ll save it for later
For now this is about the winners and that, in emphatic style, was Porsche, the splendid 911 RSR grabbed the headlines at launch for its mid-engined configuration, then last year for a fabulous soundtrack with a revised exhaust, then at Test Day for the master stroke of the pair of heritage liveries on the pair of FIA WEC cars and now with the car’s first WEC win on the World Championship’s biggest stage.
It was the #92 ‘Pink Pig’ that took the win, the Porsche’s were too fast, for too long, to be challenged, only Ford able to truly challenge across the whole race length.
All three drivers of the #92: Kevin Estre, Michael Christensen and Laurens Vanthoor claim their first class wins at Le Mans.
It is Porsche’s first win in GTE Pro at Le Mans since 2013, and, even more astoundingly, their first GTE Pro podium since 2014.
As with Overall winners Toyota they celebrate that breakthrough with a 1,2, the sister #91 ‘Rothmans’ 911 RSR with Gimmi Bruni scoring his sixth podium finish, including three class wins, Richard Lietz his fifth, including three wins, and Fred Makowiecki his third podium here, he’s still without a win.
For Ford the third place will be a real disappointment, they provided huge entertainment, and some truly wheel to wheel racing but the 2016 class winning trio of Joey Hand, a third podium finish, Sebastien Bourdais, a fifth podium here, and Dirk Müller, a fourth podium, will likely feel this could have been better for the #68 Ford GT.
Dempsey Proton Racing take home the class win in their #77 Porsche 92 RSR, the team’s second class win at Le Mans, after taking the GT2 class win in 2011.
Matt Campbell, Julien Andlauer and Christian Ried score their first Le Mans class wins, Ried adding this win to a second place in class in 2014, Campbell and Andlauer on their Le Mans debuts, the Porsche 911 RSR on its GTE Am debut.
Thomas Flohr and Francesco Castellacci take their first Le Mans class podiums in the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari. Their new team-mate for 2018 Giancarlo Fisichella takes a sixth Le Mans class podium, his first in GTE Am.
The #85 Keating Motorsport Ferrari completed the GTE Am podium with third, Luca Stolz another to score a podium on his debut, Ben Keating a first appearance on the podium at his fourth attempt and Jeroen Bleekemolen a second appearance on a class podium after his LMP2 win a decade ago.