With Peugeot's withdrawal from the world's greatest endurance race, everyone was looking to the rookie Toyota team and its two petrol-hybrid TS030 race cars to provide some kind of worthy competition for the two diesel-hybrid Audi R18 e-tron quattros and two Audi diesel R18 Ultras. And they did. Five hours from the drop of the green flag, Nicolas Lapierre in the No. 7 Toyota passed Benoit Treluyer in the No. 1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro on track to take the lead.
At almost the same time, Anthony Davidson in the No. 8 Toyota was getting launched into the air when a GT Pro-class Ferrari turned into him heading into Mulsanne Corner. Both drivers had massive impacts with the tire barrier, ending their races, and Davidson is now lying in the hospital with two fractured vertebra. Worse yet, the second Toyota had fallen to second due to a pit stop during the safety car period, and on the restart it crashed into the Nissan DeltaWing. That DeltaWing's race was ended after a solid run in its experimental class – its biggest issue appeared to be that other drivers couldn't see it. The Toyota returned to the pits for repairs and got back on track, but retired with engine failure about 12 hours in.
That left the four Audis to box for the victory, and they took the boxing seriously, making contact with tire walls, with other cars and with each other before the No. 1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro driven by last year's winners Treluyer, Andre Lotterer and Marcel Fassler took the win, the first Le Mans win by a hybrid-powered car. Second was the No. 2 R18 e-tron quattro of "Mr. Le Mans" Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Dindo Capello, then the two diesel-powered R18 ultras in third and fifth. Nicolas Prost, son of four-time F1 champion Alain Prost, took fourth in a Lola Toyota, breaking up the Audi family.
The LMP2 class win was snagged by Ryan Dalziel in an HPD-Honda, pursued heavily by the Oreca-Nissan team. Giancarlo Fisichella took the AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia to victory in the GT Pro class after having crashed the car so badly on Wednesday that the team had to start the race at the back of the pack; the GT Am Corvettes were beset by mechanical trouble and on-track incidents. Redemption for the home team came from Pedro Lamy in the Labre Corvette C6.R, who claimed GT Am honors ahead of the Imsa Porsche team.