Ferrari and its no. 51 499P LMH overcame last-minute gremlins to claim victory on Sunday at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which served as round four of the 2023 World Endurance Championship.
In the closing minutes, the no. 51 car, piloted by Alessandro Pier Guidi, Antonio Giovinazzi, and James Calado, was comfortably in the lead but failed to restart following its final pit stop.
Crucial seconds passed while Pier Guidi attempted to restart the car, allowing the second-placed no. 8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid LMH of Brendon Hartley, Ryō Hirakawa, and Sébastien Buemi to close in. But after close to a minute trying, Pier Guidi was successful and then rolled on to victory, earning Ferrari’s 10th overall win at Le Mans and the first since 1965. It also marked the first time Ferrari has competed at Le Mans since 1973.
The no. 8 Toyota finished second, 81 seconds behind. Third place went to the no. 2 Cadillac V-Series.R LMDh of Earl Bamber, Alex Lynn, and Richard Westbrook, finishing a lap behind.
Ferrari was the dominant team early on. Its no. 50 499P claimed the pole position and was joined at the front of the grid by the no. 51 Ferrari. The no. 50 car, driven by Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina, and Nicklas Nielsen, was in contention for much of the race but repairs during the night to replace a damaged radiator dropped the car several places. After an impressive fight up the order, the no. 50 car passed the checkered flag in fifth, behind the no. 4 V-Series.R LMDh of Sébastien Bourdais, Renger van der Zande, and Scott Dixon.
Porsche had a difficult race. Its no. 6 963 LMDh crashed early on with Kevin Estre behind the wheel, and then suffered further time loss due to a battery problem. The sister no. 5 car was in contention for a top-five finish until a broken driveshaft in the race’s closing hour dropped the car to ninth.
Porsche customer team Jota also had terrible luck. Its no. 38 963 suffered a major crash while leading the race in the fifth hour. With Yifei Ye behind the wheel, the car crashed into the barriers at the Porsche Curves, after which it required around 20 minutes in the pits to get back into action. It ultimately finished 13th.
One of the most impressive performances of the day was from Glickenhaus Racing, which maintained its 100% finishing record at Le Mans with the no. 708 and no. 709 007 LMH cars claiming the sixth and seventh positions. It wasn’t a perfect run, though. Both cars went off the track on the Indianapolis Straight at different stages of the race and subsequently spent time in the pits for repairs.
In the LMP2 class, victory went to the no. 31 Oreca 07 of Inter Europol Competition, driven by Jakub Śmiechowski, Fabio Scherer, and Albert Costa. In the GTE Am class, the no. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R of Corvette Racing took the victory, with driving duties handled by Ben Keating, Nico Varrone, and Nicky Catsburg.
Another Chevy took to the track this year. It was the Hendrick Motorsports’ no. 24 Camaro ZL1 NASCAR race car, which took part as a Garage 56 exhibition entry. It was piloted by Jimmie Johnson, Jenson Button, and Mike Rockenfeller, and finished 39th of 62 starters. It led all of the GTE race cars early on but driveline repairs stole an hour from the squad.
Following the weekend’s action, Ferrari remains second in the Manufacturers’ standings of the 2023 World Endurance Championship, narrowing the gap with Toyota to 19 points.
HIGH-RES GALLERY: Ferrari at the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans