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24H Le Mans

Le Mans Post-Race Notebook

Sportscar365’s post-race notebook from 90th edition of 24 Hours of Le Mans…

Photo: Toyota

***Toyota Gazoo Racing became the first team since Audi Sport Team Joest (2010-2014) to win five consecutive editions of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Scuderia Ferrari (1960-1964) is the only other team to hold such a feat in the French endurance classic.

***Ryo Hirakawa is the fifth Japanese driver to win at Le Mans and third in the FIA World Endurance Championship era, joining Kazuki Nakajima (2018-2020), Kamui Kobayashi (2021), Seiji Ara (2004) and Masanori Sekiya (1995). Three of the five drivers have been with Toyota.

***Hirakawa impressed Toyota on his first Le Mans outing with the team. “It’s not a surprise, because if it’s a surprise he should not be in the car,” said the manufacturer’s WEC technical director Pascal Vasselon. “As it’s his first Le Mans with that car, it’s remarkable.”

***Vasselon described Hirakawa’s stints going up against team principal Kamui Kobayashi as a “master and student” scenario for the newest member of the Toyota Gazoo Racing team. “The student did well,” Vasselon said, with a smile.

***Brendon Hartley, who became a three-time Le Mans winner, said the “emotions really came out” as he crossed the line for his third Le Mans victory. “My wife and daughter, who is six months old, was here as well,” Hartley said. “My engineer radioed in and said, ‘I’ve just seen your wife and daughter.’ I lost it even more and had even more tears.”

***The No. 8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid of Hirakawa, Hartley and Sebastien Buemi set a new Hypercar class distance record of 380 laps (3,217 miles) after completing 371 laps in the category’s debut last year. The all-time distance record is still held by Audi from 2010 (397 laps/3,362 miles).

***Michelin extended its unbeaten record at Le Mans to 25 consecutive overall victories since 1998.  

***Unlike in previous years, the checkered flag was waved from a balcony over the finish line. The new position was created after a close call at the end of last year’s race when the on-track flag marshal had to jump out of the way to avoid the LMP2 lead battle.

***Fifty-three of the 62 starters were classified at the finish, marking a new record for the most finishers in the race’s history.

***Joest Racing returned to the Le Mans overall podium, with the German squad providing operational support and crew members to Glickenhaus Racing. Its last top-three in the race occurred in 2016 as the Audi LMP1 factory team.

***The Alpine A480 Gibson temporarily lost two of its eight engine cylinders through an ignition coil problem that cost it time in the garage during hour five. Team principal Philippe Sinault said that Alpine fitted a new coil, which rectified the issue at the cost of several laps.

***Nico Lapierre, Andre Negrao and Matthieu Vaxiviere maintained their FIA World Endurance Championship points lead despite a trouble-filled race. The Alpine Elf Team trio hold 80 points going into the 6 Hours of Monza, with Le Mans winners Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa now three points off their tail in second.

***The No. 708 Glickenhaus struggled with an issue that made it difficult to regulate its speed under slow zones. “We had some glitches that meant we couldn’t get up to speed,” said Pipo Derani. “We lost a lot of time there during the race.”

***The third-placed No. 709 Glickenhaus Racing crew did not score Hypercar world championship points due to their entry being for Le Mans only. This enabled the Alpine crew to keep the championship lead by scoring 24 points for fourth place, rather than 20 points to reflect their fifth-place finishing position.

***Will Stevens is the fifth driver to have won Le Mans in both a GTE class and a prototype category. The LMP2 winner with JOTA added to his 2017 GTE-Am victory with JMW Motorsport, and follows on from Romain Dumas (GTE-Pro, LMP1), Marc Lieb (GTE-Pro, LMP1), Kristian Poulsen (LMP2, GTE-Am) and Harry Tincknell (LMP2, GTE-Pro).

****Antonio Felix da Costa said that JOTA’s class win was far from easy, as the No. 38 Oreca 07 Gibson remained under near-constant pressure from the second-placed Prema car.

***Da Costa told Sportscar365: “Our game plan was always to get me and Will [Stevens] to do a big chunk in the beginning to get Roberto [Gonzalez] in with a comfortable lead. We did that, but in the end with the slow zones the Prema came back. We started having some front tire delaminations so we got pretty worried, but in the end it worked out and we brought it home.”

***The Portuguese driver himself fell victim to a delaminated tire, bringing the car in just three laps into a third stint on Sunday afternoon. He explained that the issue was unexpected, as the team had been doing quadruple stints up to that point. “That’s something to investigate, for sure.”

***Steven Thomas labeled his 24 Hours of Le Mans debut as an ‘emotional rollercoaster’ as the No. 45 Algarve Pro Racing Oreca rebounded from a chassis change during practice to a class victory in LMP2 Pro-Am. “When we got here, I said, ‘guys, we came to win,'” said Thomas. “Don’t talk to me about a podium, third, second – we’re here to win. Then I put the car in the wall. Everybody was down, but I said, ‘Guys, we’re still here to win, now it’s just a better story. We’re going last to first.'”

***Porsche notched its 109th class win at Le Mans and the first for the 911 RSR-19 in the final outing of GTE-Pro in the race. The German manufacturer, which holds 19 overall victories, is the leader in all-time race wins.

***Richard Lietz had mixed feelings about having been crowned one of the last-ever GTE-Pro class winners at Le Mans, expressing happiness and sorrow over the imminent demise of the class. “It’s sad, isn’t it? It was such a nice class. But that’s life, I guess. The only constant in life is to change. Now it’s the end.”

***GTE-Am podium finisher David Pittard admitted after the race that he was concerned about Porsche’s pace in the early exchanges of the race, when cars from the German manufacturer occupied many of the top positions. “From like the bottom of the grid, the middle of the grid – they were just gone,” Pittard told Sportscar365. “After that I was like, ‘right, it’s going to be a very long 24-hour race.'”

***The 30-year-old Nurburgring specialist made his first start in the French endurance classic with NorthWest AMR: “I’ve had a big cheesy grin on my face all week,” he said. “My first laps around this circuit I was just giggling to myself that it was actually real. The whole show has just been absolutely mega, really enjoyed it.”

***The No. 56 Team Project 1 Porsche appeared to be in contention for a GTE-Am podium finish until Brendon Iribe crashed the Inception Racing-supported car with seven hours to go while under braking on the Mulsanne Straight.

***It marked a double retirement for Project 1 after the No. 46 entry retired due to vibrations following a trip through the gravel. “We fought well and took a lot of care in setting up the cars,” said team boss Axel Funke. “We had a fantastic package, the team did a brilliant job and managed the pit stops perfectly. So it is all the more disappointing that both cars retired early.”

***A total of 244,200 spectators took in the weekend’s race action according to the ACO, in the first major spectator attendance since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Last year’s race was restricted to around 50,000 fans, with the 2020 event running running behind closed doors.

***Roger Penske said his team would be interested in contesting this year’s WEC season finale in Bahrain with the Porsche LMDh prior to its official debut in the 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona. “What we want to do, if we can, we would run one LMDh car at the end of the year potentially in Bahrain,” said Penske. “That is something we would want to do, just to get a race under our belt.”

***Le Mans marked Team Penske’s final LMP2 class appearance in the WEC season as it shifts focus towards testing and development of the German manufacturer’s LMDh car, which will be formally launched at the Goodwood Festival of Speed later this month.

***Former ACO President Michel Cosson passed away on Saturday at the age of 90. Cosson, who served in the post from 1992 to 2003, left a considerable legacy including starting the ACO’s partnership with Don Panoz and the American Le Mans Series, organizing the first ACO endurance race in Japan as well as forming the Le Mans Classic.

***Michelin debuted an updated tire for the Mission H24 car in the Road to Le Mans races, featuring 53 percent sustainable materials. The previous tire contained 46 percent of biosourced and recycled raw materials. The French tire manufacturer has already announced that it aims to manufacture its entire line of tires using sustainable materials by 2050, with an interim target of 40 percent by 2030.

***Recently retired tennis star Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who is from Le Mans, attended the pre-race ceremonies. The two-time French Open semi-finalist went for a pre-race lap of the circuit in a road car driven by ACO general manager Stephane Darracq.

***While not being present for Friday’s ACO press conference, SRO Motorsports Group founder and CEO Stephane Ratel made an appearance at Le Mans on race day.

***Vanessa’s Hospitality Services hosted its 30th and final Le Mans with several teams including Riley Motorsports. Vanessa Weikart told Sportscar365 that she hopes to remain active in future Le Mans races but in a different hospitality/management capacity.

Daniel Lloyd and Davey Euwema contributed to this report

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for and SPEED Channel and has contributed to numerous other motorsports publications worldwide. Contact John

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