Aston Martin won both GTE classes at the 24 Hours of Le Mans as Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell claimed GTE-Pro honors and TF Sport triumphed in GTE-Am.
Lynn brought the factory No. 97 Aston Martin Vantage GTE past the checkered flag 1 minute and 33 seconds ahead of James Calado in the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo that was also driven by Alessandro Pier Guidi and Daniel Serra.
The Ferrari trio didn’t defend their GTE-Pro crown from last year but put up a stern challenge as the main adversaries to the Aston Martin crew and led for much of the night.
The difference between the two cars was established on Sunday morning when Tincknell overtook Serra for the lead into the second Mulsanne chicane.
While the Ferrari regularly appeared at the top of the order thanks to its pattern of pitting three laps later than the Aston each time, the British car held the overall advantage for the rest of the encounter.
Lynn had two minutes in hand to Calado when the fourth safety car of the race was produced in the final hour, following James Allen’s crash in the Graff Oreca 07 Gibson.
The gap wasn’t threatened through the interruption as Lynn managed to get his final pit stop done just before the slow period while the Ferrari came in later once the race had returned to green.
This confirmed Aston Martin’s first GTE-Pro win at Le Mans since 2017 and the first 24-hour race victory for the latest-generation Vantage GTE.
First and third also guaranteed Aston the FIA World Endurance Championship GTE manufacturers’ title with one round of the 2019-20 season to spare.
Aston Martin’s No. 95 crew of Marco Sorensen and Nicki Thiim, who were joined by Richard Westbrook, maintained their points lead with an isolated run to third place.
Ferrari’s supporting actor to the No. 51 machine was the No. 71 car of Davide Rigon, Miguel Molina and Sam Bird, but that car ceded third position to the No. 95 Aston and fell off the lead lap with an 11-minute stop for repairs to the car’s rear suspension.
This came after Bird experienced a puncture that ruptured the car’s right-rear corner, making the procedure much more complicated than a standard tire change.
Rigon’s car then suffered an agonizing gearbox failure on the final lap which resulted in the No. 71 AF Corse not being shown as classified at the end.
That elevated the privateer Risi Competizione Ferrari of Sebastien Bourdais, Jules Gounon and Olivier Pla to fourth in class, albeit seven laps away from Lynn.
GTE-Pro quickly became a duel between Aston Martin and Ferrari as the two factory Porsche 911 RSR-19s first struggled for pace before encountering power steering issues.
The No. 91 car driven by Richard Lietz, Gianmaria Bruni and Frederic Makowiecki finished fifth, 11 laps down on the winner, while the No. 92 of 2018 Le Mans winners Kevin Estre, Michael Christensen and Laurens Vanthoor was sixth and 15 laps adrift.
This was the last of the eight cars that started the GTE-Pro race to be classified at the end.
WeatherTech Racing’s No. 63 Ferrari shared between Jeff Segal, Cooper MacNeil and Toni Vilander retired with damage from a clash with the Racing Team Nederland LMP2 Oreca at Tertre Rouge in the night.
TF Sport Takes Commanding GTE-Am Victory
An Aston Martin Vantage GTE also won in the GTE-Am category as Jonny Adam, Charlie Eastwood and Salih Yoluc delivered TF Sport’s first-ever Le Mans win.
Eastwood crossed the line 49 seconds ahead of Matt Campbell in the No. 77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR that also featured Riccardo Pera and Christian Ried.
The TF Sport second-gen Aston was a contender from the start of the race and enjoyed a particularly close battle with the No. 98 Aston Martin Racing car of Augusto Farfus, Ross Gunn and Paul Dalla Lana until that car hit trouble with eight hours to go.
A rear suspension issue dumped the AMR entry out of the fight for the win but it recovered in the remaining hours to finish eighth in class and five laps down.
This left the TF Sport machine in clean air with a couple of minutes in hand, while Campbell ate away some of that deficit during the final stint.
The race for second intensified over the second half of the race before reaching its height once the cars placed second, third and fourth had been bunched under the same safety car queue in the last hour.
Campbell drafted alongside Team Project 1 Porsche driver Matteo Cairoli and pulled off a move into the second Mulsanne chicane, while Nicklas Nielsen demoted Cairoli to fourth as the Italian skirted the gravel on the exit of Mulsanne, giving the AF Corse Ferrari man a good run.
Nielsen couldn’t advance a further position and settled for third with his co-drivers Emmanuel Collard and Francois Perrodo.
Cairoli took fourth with Egidio Perfetti and Larry ten Voorde, while Gulf Racing had a reliable run to fifth with its Porsche driven by Ben Barker, Andrew Watson and Mike Wainwright.
RESULTS: 24H Le Mans