Le Mans 24 Hours 2024 – Finish (5)

When one door won’t close perhaps it does not matter—or some other profound observation. As the final two hours unwound it was increasingly clear that four cars were left in the fight, two each from Ferrari and Toyota. There was an ever darker horse in the form of the No. 6 Porsche of Laurens Vanthoor further back.

The battles were close in the final hours with the No. 50 Ferrari nearly colliding with the No. 8 Toyota. Jose Maria Lopez had a slight spin in the Toyota while it was soon noted that the “passenger” door of the Ferrari was not properly closed. While it was not black flagged there was enough concern that race director Eduardo Freitas noted it to the team. It became part of the rationale for having Nicklas Nielsen make the first of the final stops for the leaders. The Dane stayed aboard No. 50, although it dropped behind Lopez, Alessandro Pier Guidi (No. 51 Ferrari) and Vanthoor.

Pier Guidi then ceded the spot to Nielsen while the Porsche made its stop as did Lopez. This cycled Nielsen back to the top. The question remained as to whether the No. 50 Ferrari stopped too early and would make it to the end on its allotted petrol-hybrid energy allotment. While the weather remained problematic with periodic strong deluges in various parts of the circuit, the slower speeds actually worked to Ferrari’s favour.

The LM P2 contest continued its pattern of near constant shifting during the closing hours  although it finally settled into Oliver Jarvis (No. 22 United Autosports) about 20 seconds clear of Clement Novalak (No. 34, Inter Europol) and Van Uitert in No. 28 (Idec). The long class leading No. 183 of AF Corse dropped just a bit but still claimed the Pro-Am trophy. There was a bit of drama near the end when Jarvis got rather sideways, nearly tossing away a sure victory.

Richard Lietz extended the lead of the No. 91 Porsche to take a nearly 30 second win in GT3. He was followed home by Augusto Farfus in the No. 31 BMW—their solid if unspectacular drive salvaging an otherwise bad weekend for the Bavarian brand. Dennis Olsen was next, handing the brand new Ford Mustang a fine podium spot.

During the last hour there remained some possibility of a final fight for both first and third overall. The No. 6 Porsche was within striking distance of the No. 51 Ferrari and the Toyota was clearly lapping faster than the leading Ferrari. But within minutes of each other the respective team managers of Vanthoor (Penske Porsche) and Lopez (Toyota Gazoo) ordered their drivers to stand down and hold position as there was too much to lose and no likely hope to continue the battle.

There would be no last minute heartbreaks such as late retirements. Indeed the long hibernating No. 20 BMW “Art Car” reemerged for a ceremonial finish although it was too far down to be classified. But there was lots of emotion. Co-drivers Miguel Molina and Antonio Fuoco were openly weeping in joy as the No. 50 passed the flag at 16:00 and there wasn’t a dry eye in the cockpit either as Niklas Nielsen pounded the wheel in joy. After 58 years without an overall victory at Le Mans, the most iconic name in sports cars has won the endurance classic twice in a row.

By Janos Wimpffen

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