Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa earned Toyota’s fifth consecutive 24 Hours of Le Mans victory, leading a 1-2 result for the Japanese manufacturer.
Hartley brought the No. 8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid to the 4 p.m. Sunday checkered flag with two minutes hand to Jose Maria Lopez who shared the No. 7 Toyota with fellow defending winners Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway.
Ryan Briscoe, Franck Mailleux and Richard Westbrook earned Glickenhaus Racing’s first Le Mans podium in third, four laps off the winning Toyota, in their No. 709 Glickenhaus 007 Pipo.
That was the least delayed of the non-hybrid Glickenhaus LMH machines, with the sister No. 708 car finishing five laps further back in fourth overall.
A series of problems early in the race prevented Alpine from mounting a challenge with its grandfathered LMP1 in the car’s final Le Mans. Nicolas Lapierre, Andre Negrao and Matthieu Vaxiviere were classified 18 laps behind the winning Toyota in 23rd place.
The Toyotas ran close together for much of the opening half and it didn’t take long for them to break away from their competitors in the Hypercar class.
Conway moved ahead of pole-sitter Buemi at the first round of pit stops, setting up a lead for the No. 7 car that would continue until three and a half hours when an off-track moment for Lopez on an out-lap contributed to the No. 8 getting back in front.
Five hours in, Kobayashi swept around Hirakawa for the lead as the No. 8 driver got caught up behind a GTE car as he exited the pits, despite managing to keep the defending world champion at bay during the preceding stint.
Conway then reeled in Buemi to the point that Toyota swapped its cars around at the Daytona Chicane after eight hours.
The No. 7 car’s advantage did not last long, however, as the No. 8 emerged from the next round of stops in front before its slender lead ballooned into a half-minute cushion thanks to the timing of a ninth-hour slow zone period.
That enabled the No. 8 Toyota to lead through the halfway point, but slow zone delays of its own allowed the No. 7 to swing back into the lead heading past dawn.
A couple of hours later, an issue with the front motor-generator unit struck the No. 7 and ultimately ended Kobayashi, Conway and Lopez’s chances of repeating last year’s win.
Lopez parked up at Arnage and attempted to reset his car’s electronics, before circulating back to the pits for more extensive investigations in the garage.
That delay transformed a half-minute lead for the No. 7 Toyota into a deficit of more than three minutes.
No such dramas affected the No. 8 Toyota over the remaining eight hours, paving the way for Buemi, Hartley and Hirakawa to take a commanding win.
Buemi became a four-time Le Mans winner, adding to his hat-trick of victories with Toyota starting in 2018, while Hartley secured his third win at the event.
Hirakawa, meanwhile, notched up his first Le Mans victory and became the fifth Japanese driver to reach the top step of the podium at the French enduro.
Glickenhaus Reaches Overall Podium
Aside from a sensor issue less than two hours in, the No. 709 Glickenhaus ran consistently well throughout and emerged from the night with hopes of a podium finish.
Briscoe, Westbrook and Mailleux continued to stay out of trouble through the daylight hours on Sunday when incidents impacted several cars from other categories.
The No. 708 Glickenhaus also ran cleanly in the second half of the race, but repairs in the garage following an accident for Olivier Pla in the eighth hour proved costly.
TotalEnergies 6 Hours of Spa pole-sitter Pla returned to the track five laps down, leaving the No. 708 crew with the task of working its way through the LMP2 field, which it did.
The Alpine A480 Gibson’s problems in the first quarter of the race were too sufficient for it to rise above the LMP2s.
Its first setback was a drive-through penalty for speeding through a slow zone before a clutch issue dropped it off the lead lap in the fourth hour.
Another lengthy pit stop due to problems with the exhaust manifold compounded the recovery task, while an accident for Vaxiviere at the Porsche Curves in Hour 18 rubbed salt into Alpine’s wounds.
RESULTS: 24 Hours of Le Mans