There was little usual about this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans – intermittent rain in the weeks before the race meant cars didn't get on track as much as they wanted, and intermittent rain during the race meant cars went off track a lot more than they wanted. The race started with a wet track, and one of the records broken because of the random downpours was the number of times the safety car led the field – 11 times this year – although the record of two hours and 53 minutes of lapping behind the safety car, set in 2011, was not eclipsed.

None of that served to dampen the action. With little more than an hour left in the race there were cars still only a few seconds apart fighting for position, leads still changing because of pit stops and everyone drafting anyone they could.

Things didn't go the usual way up front, either – well, not exactly...
Audi locked out the front row, the order being car No. 2 (Loïc Duval, Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish), car No. 1 (André Lotterer, Marcel Fässler, Benoit Tréluyer) then car No. 3 (Lucas di Grassi, Oliver Jarvis, Marc Gene).

That second-place car with the first number has won the race for the past two years, and once the pace car pulled off to let the race begin Lotterer pulled around McNish through the Dunlop curve and led the race just a few hundred meters into the first lap.



After all the drama of regulation changes after the World Endurance Championship race at Spa to get Toyota more performance relative to the Audis – in addition to the performance modifications, Toyota was also granted a larger fuel filler so it could top its 76-liter tank more quickly – and the questions about sandbagging, Nicolas Lapierre doing the first stint in the No. 7 Toyota, starting fifth, took off like buckshot, getting past teammate Anthony Davidson in the No. 8 Toyota and the other two Audis and challenging for the lead. Davidson would follow, putting the Toyotas into second and third behind Lotterer.

This was the Toyota from the end of 2012, the one that conquered Audi in the last four races of the WEC season. There were two problems, though: the pace was killing their fuel strategy, and Lapierre's TS030 suddenly started having problems; from attacking for the lead he was then three to four seconds off the pace, and in the third hour his car stopped just beyond the first chicane on the Mulsanne straight. He got it going again and didn't pit when he came around, but something was wrong.



That would be the case with the No. 1 and No. 3 Audis, too. The aerospace-grade racing machine from Ingolstadt would encounter a generator issue on the No. 1 R18 e-tron quattro that took 12 laps – 43 minutes – to fix. When it resumed racing it was in 24th and, short of some deus ex machina, not going to win the race a third time in a row.

The No. 3 car suffered a puncture coming out of the pits almost seven hours in, but after doing a lap on three tires was only in the pits for a jiffy. However, Gene would later bring it back in reporting several problems, and it dropped back to sixth due to the repairs – in fact, all of the Audis would report problems with vibration in various parts of the race.

Car No. 2 took the lead in the seventh hour of the race and, in spite of lead changes due to differing pit strategies in the beginning, never gave it up. Kristensen would lap the slower Toyotas in the seventh hour, the No. 7 car having several offs with Lapierre and Nakajima at the wheel. Nakajima had a nasty incident Sunday morning at the Dunlop Curve, then Lapierre put the car in the barriers at the Indianapolis with a little more than an hour left in the race and in the pouring rain. Somehow, he got the car extricated and the bodywork pulled off and got it back to the pits.



For much of the race it looked like the Toyotas would take second and third place, but the woes of No. 7 gave the No. 3 Audi a chance to retake third position. Kristensen crossed the line first in Audi No. 2, followed by the No. 8 Toyota driven by Davidson (his co-drivers Stephane Sarrazin and Sebastien Buemi) in second, Audi No. 3 in third with Gene at the wheel. The No. 1 Audi managed to claw back fifth place, driven by Lotterer at the end.

The privateer Strakka Racing HPD LMP1 car finished sixth, driven by of Jonny Kane, Danny Watts and Nick Leventis. The No. 13 Rebellion Racing Lola was taken out of contention by a gearbox issue that took forever to repair, the No. 12 Rebellion was taken out by a huge crash with Andrea Belicchi at the wheel.



In LMP2 the No. 24 Nissan-powered Oak Racing Morgan driven by Olivier Pla, Alex Brundle and David Heinemeier Hansson and the No. 35 sister car piloted by Bertrand Baguette, Ricardo Gonzalez and Martin Plowman battled throughout the race for the lead along with the No. 26 G-Drive/Delta-ADR ORECA-Nissan driven by Mike Conway, John Martin and Roman Rusinov. The No. 35 had started four rows behind the category leader No. 24 car on the grid, and even though Olivier Pla in the No. 24 took the lead early and fought to hold it against the G-Drive Nissan, Bertrand Baguette in the No. 35 Morgan was having none of it and got himself into the fight. With just 72 minutes left in the race Baguette was leading LMP2, with Pla behind and Conway in the G-Drive Nissan in third but two laps down. Baguette spun but he didn't lose the lead, the three cars finishing in that order. Jann Mardenborough in the Greaves Motorsports Zytek Nissan would finish fourth; a scion of Nissan's GT Academy, he was trying to finish on the podium in his first Le Mans like his co-driver Lucas Ordonez did in 2011.

In GTE Pro, the three cars that would battle throughout the race until a couple of hours before the finish had been bunched up together in the first safety car period occasioned by Allan Simonsen's accident. Everyone else in the class was penalized by the method used at Le Mans, which breaks the field into three groups behind the three different safety cars and can put huge gaps in between racers if they don't happen to fall in behind the same safety car.



The No. 97 Aston Martin Racing (AMR) Vantage GTE was practically chained to the No. 99 AMR and the No. 92 Porsche factory team (using the new 991 RSR race car) and out for a good result on the carmakers 50th anniversary, just a year before it returns to the LMP1 class. The No. 92 Porsche would work its way up into the fight, but not before Frederic Makowiecki in the No. 99 Aston Martin turned in a monster performance during his stints to claim the lead from his sister team car. He, Bruno Senna and Rob Bell kept the car looking like a sure shot for the top step at the flag, until Makowiecki got loose at the second Mulsanne chicane with just over five hours to go and hit the barriers, tearing the car apart. He was unhurt.



A strategy battle developed during a rain and safety car period, and the Porsches won it. Changeable weather conditions had the two Porsches on two different kinds of tires, and when the No. 97 Aston Martin pitted about an hour before the end of the race, wet tires were put on, then they were immediately taken off and slick tires were put on. One of the Porsches was on slicks, the other on wets, and everyone awaited the battle to see which car was right. However, a suspension issue was discovered on the No. 97 Aston Martin during that same pit stop and it lost too much time to be a factor in the run to the end. The No. 92 Porsche would take the class from the No. 91 Porsche, followed by the No. 97 Aston Martin.



The GTE Am class was a battle of the No. 55 and No. 61 AF Corse Ferraris and the No. 67 and No. 76 IMSA Matmut Porsches. The No. 76 Porsche would get the win ahead of the No. 55 Ferrari in second, and the No. 61 Ferrari in third.



Kristensen's LMP1 win gives him nine Le Mans victories, breaking his previous record of eight victories. It is the 12th time Audi has won the race in 14 tries. McNish took a third win, and Loïc Duval won on his first try. Kristensen drove 348 laps, one lap more than the second- and third-placed cars. The winner pitted 34 times, Davidson in the Toyota pitted 30 times, the same number as the third-placed Audi, and the fourth-placed No. 7 Toyota pitted 29 times.



The highest placed Corvette C6-ZR1 in GTE Pro was the No. 73 in fourth, then the No. 74 driven in seventh, followed by the No. 53 SRT Viper GTS-R and the No. 93 Viper. The Corvette's put in some competitive times during the race, they just couldn't do it consistently. The Vipers, in a development year, ran well when they were running, but were – yes, we've got to say it – snakebit when it came to mechanical issues. The first Corvette in GTE Am was the No. 50 Larbre Competition car in fifth, the No. 70 Larbre Competition car in tenth. Patrick Dempsey's No. 77 Porsche GT3 RSR finished fourth in GTE Am. Special mention goes to Alexander Rossi in the Caterham, the American test driver for Caterham's Formula One team, who put in a strong performance after a suspension issue. Special mention in the opposite direction goes to Romain Brandela in the No. 39 DKR Lola-Judd, who was apparently taping an episode of Jackass and took far too many opportunities to spin and hit other cars. The return of Alpine (as a Signatech Nissan) didn't make the splash they wanted, the LMP2 car finishing ninth among 13 in-class finishers. More than 50 individual barrier pieces were replaced during the race, each repair causing extended bouts of the safety car.



That's the report for this year. Next year it'll be Audi, Toyota and Porsche at the head of the pack, and we heard rumors that a fourth manufacturer intends to join for next year's start. The battle has already begun.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 18 Comments
      Rotation
      • 1 Year Ago
      The amount of guardrail repair this year was just too much. I have no idea what the ACO was thinking. The last period in particular changed the race and for no good reason. The rain came, but all a driver had to do was last out one lap until a car hit the wall (a Rebellion/ORECA LMP2?). After that, the ACO sent out the safety cars for a hour, after which the track was nearly dry. The ACO either has to fix guardrail a lot faster or else just don't fix guardrail in places where it is not overly damaged and unlikely to receive additional high-speed hits during the race. Like the one whose repair extended the last safety car period. I know safety is important, but you're always playing the odds. Not fixing an area is only a problem if it gets hit again and the guardrail fails due to repeated hits. So there are areas which don't require immediate fixing as the damage in those areas doesn't significantly increase the risk. On a separate note, I thought the level of car-to-car collisions was greatly reduced this year. Sure, there were still some problems, but remember the last two years of GTE AM. In 2011 Audi had a GTE AM driver (and team principal) excluded due to colliding with their car and in 2012 one of the Toyota LMP1s was taken out by a collision with a GTE AM Ferrari (at Mulsanne Corner, IIRC).
        rtkewley
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Rotation
        I would imagine they were thinking that they'd prefer not to have any more drivers die during the race...
          Rotation
          • 1 Year Ago
          @rtkewley
          If they thought that, why do they have guardrail at all? They should have safer barriers. They're rolling the dice just putting the race on. Spending time fixing the guardrail doesn't make sense for every location it is damaged.
      Les
      • 1 Year Ago
      Let me see. All of the winners were pictured in this article....except the Porsches in GTE Pro. And of course we have to have the obligatory Corvette. Puh-leeze. Porsche will return to LMP1 next year...and you folks will "forget" to take a picture.
      Driver3
      • 1 Year Ago
      I know the LMP1's are all super fast and purposefully built and all, but man, they are really not very attractive!
        Anon
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Driver3
        Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I personally think they are the coolest looking cars in the world.
        Rotation
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Driver3
        They're fantastic-looking next to the Grand-Am prototypes.
          gtv4rudy
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Rotation
          The Grand Am prototypes are more 70s technology in comparison. What a joke.
        davebo357
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Driver3
        I'll always prefer the older designs like the '89 Sauber Mercedes and of course the Mazda 787b, but I still like the somewhat modern design of slightly older ones like the Bentley Speed 8 from the early 00's. You just need more exciting livery than grey and white on them. I've always liked the Corvette's Yellow/Black and that new take on the Gulf livery for the Aston is nice.
        bubba_roe
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Driver3
        Funny you got down voted because what you said is the truth. But most people dont like the truth.
      Vision7
      • 1 Year Ago
      Another great year for Le Mans. I'll be looking forward to getting very little sleep next year to watch as much of it as possible. The Audi, Porsche, Toyota, and 4th team battle should breathe some new life into the LMP1 class, for sure.
      jfa1177
      • 1 Year Ago
      I'm glad Audi beat out Toyota this year. Toyota, nor any other brand for that matter, have the techincal capabilities to beat Audi. Even with restricitions in fuel capacity, a bigger restrictor plate, and when the hybrid could kick in Audi still beat them hands down. THAT is a testament to how much depth the team from engineering to pit crew have. I find it hard to believe that Porsche will put up any better fight than Toyota even though their sole purpose it building sportscars. BTW- I'm not an Audi fan by any stretch either. Porsche, yes.
        Rotation
        • 1 Year Ago
        @jfa1177
        The amount of energy in the Audi's Diesel fuel cell is comparable to that of the Toyota hybrid. And the restrictions on when the hybrid system come on don't amount to an advantage for Toyota, merely not an advantage for Audi. The cars are traction-limited (by design) at low speeds, allowing Audi to drive the front wheels at low speeds would give them an advantage. On the Toyota, the acceleration at low speeds is already limited by grip, so putting on the hybrid system at those speeds doesn't really add anything.
        rtkewley
        • 1 Year Ago
        @jfa1177
        It's a more a testament to the quantities of money and time that Audi has been willing to spend. Not criticizing Audi, but pretty much any large car company that throws massive amounts of resources at a series will eventually dominate it. Toyota's recent adventures in F1 are perhaps the exception that proves that rule, but still...
      • 1 Year Ago
      [blocked]
      rocketmoose
      • 1 Year Ago
      "Toyota was also granted a larger fuel filler so it could top its 76-liter tank more quickly" Why is that? If you design a petrol car, you have pros and cons and trade-offs. One of the cons would be reduced economy. Toyota should simply deal with it.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @rocketmoose
        [blocked]
      • 1 Year Ago
      [blocked]
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