Fifty years after its historic victory, Ford has returned to the top step of the podium in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, taking the GTE-Pro class win with the No. 68 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT.
The team of Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais took the Ford to the line after battling with Risi Competizione for most of the race.
Pre-race Balance of Performance controversy aside, the class battle was just as thrilling and unpredictable as expected, all the way throughout the race.
The race saw countless troubles for the remaining manufacturers: Porsche, Corvette, Ferrari and Aston Martin.
Mueller took the Ford to the finish line 1 minute clear of Giancarlo Fisichella’s Risi Ferrari 488 GTE. The No. 82 Ferrari was shared between Fisichella, Toni Vilander and Matteo Mallucelli.
Fisichella was called in with 15 minutes to go, receiving a black and orange flag for continued issues with the Risi car’s leader lights.
The team decided not to bring him in for a stop-go penalty, which could result in a disqualification.
As the team usually runs in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, there were no championship points implications. However, the results remain provisional, pending multiple protests.
Scott Dixon secured the final podium position for the No. 69 crew, along with Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook, while Stefan Muecke brought the No. 66 Ford to the line for Olivier Pla and Billy Johnson after losing time in the night to a number panel light issue.
It was a more difficult race for the No. 67 team which missed the start with gearbox issues, and made several other trips to the garage with various problems throughout.
Harry Tincknell, Andy Priaulx and Marino Franchitti finished ninth in class.
Perhaps the most unfortunate factory team was Porsche Motorsport, which retired its pair of Porsche 911 RSRs during the night.
The No. 91 car of Patrick Pilet, Kevin Estre and Nick Tandy suffered punctured air cooler caused by a stone, before engine problems took it out of the race.
Meanwhile, Frederic Makowiecki, Earl Bamber and Joerg Bergmeister dropped out of contention with their No. 92 car after power steering and front suspension problems.
The two works-entered Porsches had led in the race’s early stages, which were held in intermediate conditions, but fell back when the track dried.
Despite a replacement driveshaft, the Dempsey-Proton Porsche managed to finish the race in eighth position with drivers Richard Lietz, Philipp Eng and Michael Christensen.
Corvette Racing was off pace all week, and the defending class champions of Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Jordan Taylor retired after Milner crashed in the early morning at turn 1.
Ricky Taylor took the No. 63 Corvette C7.R to seventh overall alongside Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen. That car didn’t take to the start of last year’s race following a crash during qualifying, but this still wasn’t the result they were likely hoping for.
The third manufacturer to struggle was Ferrari, with both of the AF Corse-run 488 GTEs retiring in the night.
James Calado damaged the undertray of his No. 51 car early in the race, before an engine issue led to the car of Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Gianmaria Bruni being parked in the garage.
A tire puncture for Davide Rigon signaled the downfall in the No. 71 car’s race. After 40 minutes spent limping back to the pits from turn 4, the car he shared with Sam Bird and Andrea Bertolini was retired at dusk.
It was a largely quiet race in GTE-Pro for Aston Martin Racing, save for a puncture picked up by Darren Turner in the No. 95 car while running fourth.
The delay dropped him behind the No. 66 Ford to 5th in the car he shared with Marco Sorensen and Nicki Thiim, while the sister No. 97 Vantage GTE was sixth with Jonny Adam, Richie Stanaway and Fernando Rees.
Jeff Segal held on to secure the GTE-Am victory for Scuderia Corsa, restoring a win for Ferrari after the Risi car missed out.
Segal shared the No. 62 Ferrari F458 Italia with Bill Sweedler and Townsend Bell. This completes the long-time pairing’s “triple crown” of wins after victories in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2014 and Twelve Hours of Sebring in 2012.
Emmanuel Collard passed David Heinemeier Hansson in the last hour to make it a Ferrari one-two.
Collard teamed up with Francois Perrodo and Rui Aguas in the No. 83 AF Corse Ferrari, finishing almost three minutes behind Segal.
Heinemeier Hansson held onto the final podium slot for Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing with Khaled Al Qubaisi and Patrick Long, after being in contention for the win for most of the race in their No. 88 Porsche 911 RSR.
Mok Weng Sun completed the train of GTE-Am cars at the finish, with his Clearwater Racing Ferrari he shared with Keita Sawa and Robert Bell.
The first major retirement of the race was the WeatherTech Racing Porsche, which crashed out at the Dunlop Chicane with Marc Miller at the wheel, in what was a two-driver lineup after Cooper MacNeil was declared unfit to drive.
There were also problems for the No. 98 Aston Martin which had a gearbox failure towards the end of the race, while KCMG lost time after a misfire in its Porsche.
RESULTS: 24 Hours of Le Mans (Provisional)