AF Corse (GTE-Pro) and Aston Martin Racing (GTE-Am) controlled the GTE classes at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans en route to victories in the 82nd running of the endurance classic.
For the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia of Gianmaria Bruni, Toni Vilander and Giancarlo Fisichella, it’s their second win as a group after they also scored the class win in 2012.
The No. 51 had a trouble-free race, but also survived a series of fights for the lead throughout the middle portion of the race with both Aston Martin and Corvette.
The No. 97 Aston Martin Vantage put up the biggest fight, with Darren Turner putting up several passes for the lead and Bruno Senna fighting tooth-and-nail with Bruni in the 18th and 19th hours.
But the Aston’s charge was thwarted in the 19th hour with power steering fluid pipe failure, and the car spent more than 20 minutes behind the wall. A further off-course excursion by Turner in the 21st hour and a trip to the garage in the 23rd spoiled any podium hopes, and left the Aston sixth in GTE-Pro.
Corvette Racing moved into second with 75 minutes remaining when the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR, which had otherwise ran a trouble-free race pitted and took the hood off to make a quick adjustment.
The No. 73 Corvette C7.R of “Kevin’s dad” Jan Magnussen, new father Antonio Garcia and soon-to-be mullet retiree Jordan Taylor held the spot for the remainder of the race.
The No. 73 pressed on despite losing nearly two laps in the pits to fix a broken valve stem on the car’s air jacks. Taylor closed nearly 30 seconds in the 21st hour on the No. 92 Porsche for second in his last stint, in an impressive performance.
Porsche’s No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR with Frederic Makowiecki, Marco Holzer and Richard Lietz driving ran second for most of the race, albeit one where they avoided disaster on two separate occasions.
The car had a birds-eye view of the No. 3 Audi, No. 8 Toyota and No. 81 AF Corse Ferrari accident on the Mulsanne in the rain-drenched second hour of the race, and also avoided a spinning Team Taisan Ferrari at Indianapolis Sunday morning. Their luck ran out with the aforementioned long pit stop, and that dropped them to third.
The second Corvette, the No. 74 driven by Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Richard Westbrook, lost eight laps due to a slipped alternator belt and gearbox leak. The No. 74 ended fourth.
Jeroen Bleekemolen and Cooper MacNeil turned in an ironman performance in the reclassified GTE-Pro No. 79 ProSpeed Competition Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, running the entire 24 hours by themselves and ending a valiant fifth.
Bleekemolen limped the car back home to the pits despite two left rear punctures.
In GTE-Am, Aston Martin Racing controlled the race from start-to-finish with both its No. 98 and No. 95 entries, but poignantly, it was the No. 95 that took the class victory with the Young Driver AMR all-Danish driver entry a year after Allan Simonsen’s fatal accident.
Nicki Thiim, David Heinemeier Hansson and Kristian Poulsen drove a consistent, clean, trouble-free race. There were two near scares when Poulsen briefly stopped on track in the 23rd hour exiting the pit lane and had a 6-minute plus lap, and later had a garage trip that meant an 8-minute plus lap. But the car ultimately won by two laps in class.
For Thiim and DHH it’s their first Le Mans victories and for Poulsen, it’s his second to add to a 2009 LMP2 class win a Porsche RS Spyder.
Any of five other cars were in contention for the remaining podium positions, but when all was said and done it was the No. 88 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR and No. 61 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia that completed the top three.
Proton’s trio of Christian Ried, Klaus Bachler and Khalid al Qubaisi ran a largely trouble-free race. The No. 61 car of Luis Perez-Companc, Marco Cioci and Mirko Venturi had several minor off-course excursions, but none were serious enough to dent their podium hopes.
The three American-entered teams in class, 8Star Motorsports, Dempsey Racing-Proton and Krohn Racing, all fell short of the class podium but put in valiant efforts nonetheless.
8Star’s No. 90 of Frankie Montecalvo, Paolo Ruberti and Gianluca Roda survived puncture and clutch issues to finish fourth; the all-American trio of Patricks Long and Dempsey with Joe Foster came home fifth despite a three-minute stop-and-hold penalty for spinning their tires in the pits and a brief garage trip.
RESULTS: 24 Hours of Le Mans