The 92nd 24 Hours of Le Mans is underway!

29 days ago

24h Le Mans

15/06/2024

16:00

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And they’re off! 2024 official starter Zinedine Zidane has given the order for the 62 cars to commence 24 hours of racing, getting the 92nd 24 Hours of Le Mans, fourth round of the FIA WEC, underway. Now to wait until 16:00 tomorrow to discover the winner of what promises to be an exceptional race.

Le Mans 2024 - Figure 1
Photo 24 Heures du Mans

There was plenty happening on and off the track today before the cars lined up on the grid. More than 300,000 people have flocked to Le Mans, the motoring capital of the world this weekend. A host of French celebrities were spotted meandering along the grid, soaking up the inimitable atmosphere, with fans recognising Esteban Ocon, Pierre Gasly, Gad Elmaleh, Vincent Cassel and Mathieu Kassovitz.

A technological testing ground for over 100 years, the 24 Hours of Le Mans gives manufacturers the opportunity to showcase their progress for sustainable mobility, with hydrogen front and centre. We got to see the Mission H24 prototype, Solution F’s Foenix H2, the Ligier JS2 RH2 and the Alpine Alpenglow Hy4 as they went out for a lap. Zero-emission cars will get a shot at victory in 2028 when a new hydrogen class is introduced at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The competitors started to form the grid on the starting line at 13:30, moments after a French Navy Rafale flypast thrilled the throngs of spectators. As the tension mounted, all eyes turned to the 24 Hours of Le Mans Trophy as it was presented on the starting grid. As is tradition, the outgoing winners, Ferrari, returned the trophy to be put back in the game.

The pressure continued to build for the 186 drivers as the minutes ticked by. Shortly before the start of the race, the Patrouille de France performed the traditional flypast, an emotionally charged moment marking the start of the formation lap led by this year’s Grand Marshal, Kazuki Nakajima.

Le Mans 2024 - Figure 2
Photo 24 Heures du Mans

Cars in all classes – Hypercar, LMP2 and LMGT3 – are running on the fully renewable Excellium Racing 100 fuel specially developed by TotalEnergies, multi-energy partner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. With seconds to go, the cars slowly approached the start line. Anticipation gave way to action as the world’s greatest endurance race finally got underway. In 24 hours, we’ll know the outcome in what is set to be a thrillingly unpredictable race.

Ferrari dominates the first hour

The three Ferrari hypercars took the opening laps by storm with Nicklas Nielsen in the #50 works 499P surprising the #51 sister car and Sébastien Bourdais in the #3 Cadillac V-Series.R in the opening metres. The Dane moved into the overall lead, overtaking the Laurens Vanthoor in the polesitting #6 Porsche 963 at Indianapolis.

Antonio Giovinazzi, in the seat of the #51 Ferrari 499P, was fastest on lap 2 in 3:30.347 which was enough to jump up to third. He got the better of Bourdais in the approach to the first chicane on the Mulsanne Straight. After 15 minutes of racing, Ferrari occupied the top two spots in the standings as the Italian also overtook Belgian Vanthoor. Nielsen took advantage of being in front of the field to clock the fastest lap in the first hour (3:29.311). Meanwhile, over the same period, former Formula One star Robert Kubica the AF Corse Ferrari 499P made a giant leap from a starting position of 12th on the grid to fifth in the overall standings. 

Le Mans 2024 - Figure 3
Photo 24 Heures du Mans

The first to go astray in the Hypercar class was the #15 BMW M Hybrid V8. Marco Witmann lost control in the Forest Esses and collided with the barrier. The German racer was able to swivel round and set off again but was forced to pit for a nose change.

Vanthoor in the #6 Porsche briefly retook the lead on leaving the pits, but it was short-lived as Nielsen wrested it back. The #50 Ferrari will however have to serve a ten-second penalty on its second pit stop for an unsafe release.

The #99 Porsche 963 was pushed into the garage after the marshals reported a potential door problem on Neel Jani’s car.

Elsewhere, in LMP2, the COOL Racing #47 Oreca 07-Gibson crawled to the pits at the end of the first lap – with a problem later reported as a radiator leak – followed by the #33 DKR Engineering car with a slow puncture. First off into the gravel in this class was veteran American Ben Keating in the United Autosports USA #23 Oreca.

The fastest qualifier in LMGT3, the Inception Racing #70 McLaren 720S LMGT3 Evo with Frederik Schandorff at the wheel, led throughout the first hour, followed by Ben Barker in the Proton Competition #77 Ford Mustang LMGT3, up from P4 on the grid, and JMW’s Larry Ten Voorde in the #66 Ferrari 296 LMGT3.

Top Five after one hour

#50 Ferrari 499P | Ferrari AF Corse | Fuoco/Molina/Nielsen | 16 laps #6 Porsche 963 | Porsche Penske Motorsport | Estre/Lotterer/Vanthoor | +0.711 #3 Cadillac V-Series.R | Cadillac Racing | Bourdais/van der Zande/Dixon | +2.585 #51 Ferrari 499P | Ferrari AF Corse | Pier Guidi/Calado/Giovinazzi | +2.892 #8 Toyota GR010-Hybrid | Toyota Gazoo Racing | Buemi/Hartley/Hirakawa | +3.459

Leaders in the other classes

LMP2 – #9 Oreca 07-Gibson | Proton Competition | Ried/Capietto/Viscaal | 15 laps

LMGT3 – #70 McLaren 720S LMGT3 Evo | Inception Racing | Iribe/Millroy/Schandorff | 14 laps

The #50 Ferrari hypercar moved into the lead in the early stages of the race.

Arnaud CORNILLEAU (ACO)

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