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The Centenary year of 24 Hours of Le Mans – round four of FIA WEC – saw an epic victory for Ferrari as the Prancing Horse took an emphatic win in its Ferrari 499P Hypercar in front of a sell-out crowd of 325,000 people.

It was the Italian manufacturer’s first appearance in the top class at Le Mans since 1973 and marked Ferrari’s first overall victory since 1965. The winning trio of Antonio Giovinazzi, James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi secured 50 FIA WEC championship points and sees Ferrari close on Toyota with just 18 points separating the two manufacturers with three rounds remaining.

It was not all plain-sailing for Ferrari, however, as a close battle played out between the No. 8 Toyota Gazoo Racing GR010 Hybrid Hypercar until Ryo Hirakawa spun when braking at Arnage, causing front and rear car damage. A pitstop to fit new bodywork saw the Japanese driver rejoin the race but a lap behind the Ferrari.

There was even more drama when Pier Guidi was unable to restart the No. 51 Hypercar after a routine pit stop and lost crucial seconds in the pits. The team breathed a sigh of relief as Pier Guidi restarted the engine after about 30 seconds and eventually crossed the chequered flag 1m27s ahead of Hirakawa, Brendon Hartley and Sebastien Buemi who claimed the runners-up spot

Calado and Pier Guidi add the overall and Hypercar triumph to their 2019 and 2021 LMGTE Pro wins, while Giovinazzi becomes the first driver since Fernando Alonso in 2018 to win Le Mans on his first attempt.

Cadillac Racing clinched a third and fourth place finish as the No.2 Cadillac V-Series R driven by Alex Lynn, Earl Bamber and Richard Westbrook crewed home the No.2 car of Renger van der Zande, Sebastien Bourdais and Scott Dixon. Three different manufacturers – Ferrari, Toyota and Cadillac – on today’s podium is the first in the top class of Le Mans since 2016. The No. 50 Ferrari 499P Hypercar, driven by Nicklas Nielsen, Antonio Fuoco and Miguel Molina rounded out the top five.

Meanwhile, Glickenhaus Racing maintained their 100% finishing record at Le Mans with the No.708 and No.709 Glickenhaus 007 Hypercars claiming sixth and seventh position. Both cars went off at Indianapolis at different stages of the race and subsequently spent time in the pits for repairs.

The highest Peugeot TotalEnergies 9X8 finisher was the No.93 car of Paul di Resta, Jean-Eric Vergne and Mikkel Jensen in eighth place.  The French manufacturer was leading Le Mans earlier in the race with the sister No. 94 car but dropped out of podium contention when Gustavo Menezes crashed in the middle of the night at first Mulsanne chicane. Both cars  spent time in the garage with reported hydraulic issues and the No. 94 car classified 12th.

Porsche Penske Motorsport had a difficult race, the squad leading the race at one point but going on to suffer from a series of misfortunes including a retirement for the No. 75 Porsche 963 with a fuel pressure problem.  The WEC entered No. 6 Porsche 963 crashed at Porsche Curves with Kevin Estre at the wheel and then suffered further time loss due to a battery problem. The sister No. 5 car was in contention for a top five place until a broken driveshaft in the race’s closing hour dropped the car to ninth.

The final classified finisher in Hypercar was the Hertz Team JOTA Porsche 963 which took a distant 13th after spending most of final hours in the pits.

The No. 7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Hypercar retired early on as Kamui Kobayashi was involved in an accident with two LMP2 cars and a LMGTE Am car on the approach to Tertre Rouge. Elsewhere, the No. 4 Floyd Vanwall Racing Team retired after completing 165 laps. Tristan Vautier was at the wheel when the Vanwall Vandervell stopped on track with smoke visible from the rear.

Meanwhile, in LMP2, Inter Europol Competition took a famous and highly popular debut WEC victory at Le Mans with Jakub Śmiechowski, Fabio Scherer and Albert Costa. The team had claimed their first ever WEC podium at Spa last month and used that momentum to enjoy an impressive race where they made few mistakes, came through the pack and led for most of the race from dawn onwards.

The points leading No.33 Corvette Racing squad of Ben Keating, Nicolas Varrone and Nicky Catsburg took their third WEC victory of the season with a hard-earned win in the final LMGTE Am category race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The victory sealed Corvette’s eighth WEC win and the first at Le Mans since they won the LMGTE Pro category in 2015. They also became the first GTE Am polesitter to finish on the LM GTE Am podium.

The FIA ​​WEC will move to Italy next for round five of the championship – the 6 Hours of Monza – which takes place in one month’s time (7 – 9 July).

Photos: supplied


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