Le Mans 24h: Toyota wins with new hypercar, #7 crew breaks jinx

The #7 Toyota of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez found redemption after years of heartbreak by finally winning the first Le Mans 24 Hours of the Hypercar era, while Ferrari beat Corvette in GTE Pro.

Conway started the #7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid from the front at a wet start after Kobayashi had put the car on pole.

The Briton got away cleanly, while the #8 sister car of Sebastien Buemi was tagged by the #708 Glickenhaus 007 LMH of Oliver Pla.

In the #36 Alpine A480-Gibson, a grandfathered LMP1 car that ran last year as the Rebellion R-13, Nicolas Lapierre briefly took second but then lost it at Indianapolis, gifting Conway's Toyota a handsome lead.

While the #8 car carved its way back up the field, the leading #7 Toyota enjoyed a trouble-free run and survived a chaotic night, which was marred by several accidents, particularly in LMP2.

Toyota restored a commanding 1-2 lead before one-third distance, with the #8 car getting back in contention for the win.

But problems with fuel pickup began hampering the #8 car, restricting it to shorter stint lengths, while Buemi also lost a minute trying to reset the car on the side of the road.

The leading #7 car also suffered similar fuel issues, but Toyota managed to find a workaround and get both cars to the finish in a nervy final four hours.

An emotional Kobayashi took the chequered flag for the #7 crew, which finally found redemption after years of near misses at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

In 2017, Kobayashi and Conway - then partnered by Stephane Sarrazin - held a comfortable lead when they famously suffered a burnt-out clutch on pitlane, after Kobayashi mistook a thumbs up from LMP2 driver Vincent Capillaire for a marshal's go-signal.

When Toyota finally started winning in 2018, the first of now four consecutive Le Mans wins, it was the #8 car that took a hattrick of wins while Kobayashi, Conway and Lopez were left wondering if it was ever going to be their day.

That day, on the debut of the ACO's new Hypercar regulations, has now come, Kobayashi getting the honour to take the car to the chequered flag.

Buemi, Nakajima and Hartley completed another Toyota 1-2, Nakajima being held in the pits to orchestrate a photo finish.

Lapierre crossed the line four laps behind the winners to give Alpine a first overall podium finish at La Sarthe alongside Andre Negrao and Matthieu Vaxiviere, the first French team to finish on the overall podium since Peugeot in 2011.

After early drama, American boutique manufacturer Glickenhaus Racing had a low-key Le Mans debut in which it never threatened its fellow Hypercar rivals, but both of its cars made it to the finish in fourth and fifth, the #708 and #709 cars respectively four and seven laps behind.

#31 WRT holds on to LMP2 win amid late drama

#31 Team WRT Oreca 07 - Gibson LMP2, Robin Frijns, Ferdinand Habsburg, Charles Milesi

#31 Team WRT Oreca 07 - Gibson LMP2, Robin Frijns, Ferdinand Habsburg, Charles Milesi

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

In LMP2 the Belgian WRT outfit looked set to take a shock 1-2 win on its Le Mans debut, but last-lap heartbreak for its #41 entry left the sister #31 Oreca 07-Gibson alone to take the victory in a dramatic finale.

On Sunday morning WRT, which expanded to WEC's LMP2 class after a decade of success in GT3 racing, emerged from the darkness in a comfortable 1-2 lead after an eventful night for many of its competitors.

At that time the #31 car of Robin Frijns, Charles Milesi and Ferdinand Habsburg enjoyed a 45s lead on the #41 sister car of Robert Kubica, Yifei Ye and Louis Deletraz, but in the afternoon the #41 crew closed the gap and took over the lead with less than two hours to go.

But on the final lap of the race Ye sensationally ground to a halt in the leading #41 car, reportedly suffering a complete loss of power.

That handed the win to Frijns, Milesi and Habsburg, but only after holding off JOTA's resurgent #28 car of Stoffel Vandoorne, Tom Blomqvist and Sean Gelael who came back to finish under a second behind.

The #65 Panis Racing Oreca of Will Stevens, Julien Canal and James Allen ended up on the podium ahead of the #23 United Autosports car. It had completed fewer laps than the stricken #41 machine, but because the WRT car didn't cross the finish line it will be classified as a DNF.

While WRT fully earned its maiden win despite its late scare, it also benefitted from a plethora of issues and incidents that befell its competitors.

Some of the pre-race favourites faltered as early as Saturday afternoon, Anthony Davidson going off at Turn 1 from the lead in the #38 JOTA Oreca after teammate Antonio Felix da Costa had been the star of the opening hours.

G-Drive Racing's challenge fell apart after Franco Colapinto got caught out by a slow zone on the way to Porsche Curves, clattering his #26 Aurus-badged car into the #1 Richard Mille entry of Sophia Floersch. While the car eventually returned, its #25 sister car dropped out after a hard crash by Rui Andrade at the Dunlop chicane.

United Autosports' race also started unravelling on Saturday night when aboard the #32 car Manuel Maldonado lost control in the first corner and rammed teammate Paul di Resta in the #23 entry.

United's third #22 car ran well up front until it disappeared into the garage for an alternator issue, just past the halfway mark.

Among the other contenders, IDEC Sport's race was stunted early on when Patrick Pilet got stuck the gravel in the #48 Oreca.

JOTA's #28 trio also had the potential to ruin WRT's day, leading spells of the evening hours. But a 90-second stop and hold and a drive-through penalty, respectively for jumping the safety car queue and crossing the white line on pit entry, dropped that car off the lead lap in fifth before it mounted its recovery to second.

Juan Pablo Montoya and his DragonSpeed crew took Pro-Am honours, the former F1 ace and Indy 500 champion winning the sub-class alongside Ben Hanley and Henrik Hedman in the #21 Oreca.

On their debut as a father and son duo, Kevin and Jan Magnussen finished 17th in LMP2. A puncture sent Magnussen senior into the wall in the #49 High Class Oreca, which they shared with fellow Dane Anders Fjordbach.

Ferrari outduels Corvette for GTE Pro honours

#51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE Pro, Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado, Come Ledogar

#51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE Pro, Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado, Come Ledogar

Photo by: Paul Foster

GTE Pro looked set to be dominated by the AF Corse Ferraris, but with great strategy and driving the #63 Corvette managed to stay in the mix as the conditions began to play into the debuting C8.R's hands, Nicky Catsburg particularly enjoying the nighttime conditions during a fast triple stint.

A possible 1-2 win for AF Corse was thwarted by a left-rear suspension failure for the #52 car at night, which caused it to tumble down the order. On Sunday morning a delaminating puncture for Sam Bird cost the car even more ground.

That meant the race turned into a two-horse race between the #51 Ferrari 488 GTE Evo and the #63 Corvette C8.R.

In the warmer afternoon conditions, the #51 Ferrari of Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado and Come Ledogar gradually pulled away and took the entry's second win in three years, after winning in 2019 and finishing second last year.

It was the second GTE Pro win for Pier Guidi and Calado, who were also part of the winning crew in 2019, while Frenchman Ledogar took his first-ever Le Mans class win.

Catsburg, Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor took a solid second place in class 41 seconds behind.

Porsche endured another character-building Le Mans, both the #92 and #91 factory cars losing ground early on and lacking the outright race pace to do much about it.

In the #92 Porsche 911 RSR-19, which was rebuilt on Friday after a shunt in Hyperpole, Kevin Estre, Neel Jani and Michael Christensen beat their teammates in the #91 car to a distant podium berth, one lap down on the winning Ferrari.

Initially it was the Proton-run #79 WeatherTech car which led the Weissach marque's charge in the hands of Laurens Vanthoor and Earl Bamber, but the car retired overnight after a crash by third driver Cooper MacNeil damaged the chassis.

The other privately entered Porsche, the #72 HubAuto entry which Dries Vanthoor sensationally drove to pole, also had a troubled run. At the start Maxime Martin collided with a LMP2 car, a time loss from which the car never recovered. A broken drivetrain, which made the younger Vanthoor sibling grind to a halt, sealed the car's fate.

The second #64 Corvette bore the brunt of the reliability issues in its class. First it had to replace a broken diffuser after Nick Tandy was stunningly tapped from behind by Calado as the field left the ceremonial grid, before the race had even started.

It then lost over an hour with a nighttime clutch issue and disappeared into the garage a third time in the morning hours with an alternator problem.

In GTE Am, the #83 AF Corse Ferrari proved the class of the field. It gained a healthy buffer after Felipe Fraga went off in the first chicane on Saturday night in what was then the class-leading #33 TF Sport Aston Martin.

Once in the lead, Nicklas Nielsen, Alessio Rovera and Francois Perrodo drove a controlled race to keep the Aston over a minute behind at all times.

Fraga and TF Sport Aston teammates Ben Keating and Dylan Pereira ultimately settled for second.

Trouble for the #54 AF Corse Ferrari gave the #80 Iron Lynx Ferrari of Matteo Cressoni, Rino Mastronardi and Callum Ilott a clear run to third in class.

Full 2021 Le Mans 24 Hours race results:

Cla # Drivers Car Class Time
1 7 United Kingdom Mike Conway
Japan Kamui Kobayashi
Argentina Jose Maria Lopez
Toyota GR010 - Hybrid HYPERCAR :00'50.768
2 8 Switzerland Sébastien Buemi
Japan Kazuki Nakajima
New Zealand Brendon Hartley
Toyota GR010 - Hybrid HYPERCAR :00'50.861
3 36 Brazil Andre Negrao
France Nicolas Lapierre
France Matthieu Vaxiviere
Alpine A480 HYPERCAR :01'13.643
4 708 Brazil Pipo Derani
France Franck Mailleux
France Olivier Pla
Glickenhaus 007 LMH HYPERCAR :03'47.746
5 709 Australia Ryan Briscoe
United Kingdom Richard Westbrook
France Romain Dumas
Glickenhaus 007 LMH HYPERCAR :03'08.937
6 31 Netherlands Robin Frijns
Austria Ferdinand Habsburg
France Charles Milesi
Oreca 07 LMP2 :00'53.576
7 28 Indonesia Sean Gelael
Belgium Stoffel Vandoorne
United Kingdom Tom Blomqvist
Oreca 07 LMP2 :00'54.303
8 65 France Julien Canal
United Kingdom Will Stevens
Australia James Allen
Oreca 07 LMP2 :02'56.556
9 23 United Kingdom Paul di Resta
United Kingdom Alex Lynn
United Kingdom Wayne Boyd
Oreca 07 LMP2 :04'26.714
10 34 Poland Jakub Smiechowski
Netherlands Renger van der Zande
United Kingdom Alex Brundle
Oreca 07 LMP2 :01'38.757
11 48 France Paul Lafargue
France Paul-Loup Chatin
France Patrick Pilet
Oreca 07 LMP2 :02'12.856
12 26 Russian Federation Roman Rusinov
Argentina Franco Colapinto
Netherlands Nyck de Vries
Aurus 01 LMP2 :01'22.547
13 38 Mexico Roberto Gonzalez
Portugal Antonio Felix da Costa
United Kingdom Anthony Davidson
Oreca 07 LMP2 :02'09.758
14 30 Austria Rene Binder
Mexico Memo Rojas
France Tristan Gommendy
Oreca 07 LMP2 :00'54.199
15 21 Sweden Henrik Hedman
United Kingdom Ben Hanley
Colombia Juan Pablo Montoya
Oreca 07 LMP2 :01'29.753
16 29 Netherlands Frits van Eerd
Netherlands Giedo van der Garde
Netherlands Job Van Uitert
Oreca 07 LMP2 :01'59.005
17 70 Switzerland Esteban Garcia
France Loic Duval
France Norman Nato
Oreca 07 LMP2 :03'49.671
18 20 Denmark Dennis Andersen
United States Ricky Taylor
Denmark Marco Sorensen
Oreca 07 LMP2 :01'47.930
19 39 France Vincent Capillaire
France Arnold Robin
France Maxime Robin
Oreca 07 LMP2 :02'21.811
20 51 Italy Alessandro Pier Guidi
United Kingdom James Calado
France Côme Ledogar
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE PRO :00'53.654
21 63 Spain Antonio Garcia
United States Jordan Taylor
Netherlands Nick Catsburg
Chevrolet Corvette C8.R LMGTE PRO :01'35.340
22 92 France Kevin Estre
Switzerland Neel Jani
Denmark Michael Christensen
Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE PRO :04'19.356
23 91 Italy Gianmaria Bruni
Austria Richard Lietz
France Frédéric Makowiecki
Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE PRO :04'02.596
24 44 Slovakia Miro Konopka
United Kingdom Oliver Webb
Slovakia Matej Konopka
Oreca 07 LMP2 :01'29.078
25 83 France François Perrodo
Denmark Nicklas Nielsen
Italy Alessio Rovera
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE AM :04'24.967
26 33 United States Ben Keating
Luxembourg Dylan Pereira
Brazil Felipe Fraga
Aston Martin Vantage AMR LMGTE AM :02'05.682
27 80 Italy Matteo Cressoni
Italy Rino Mastronardi
United Kingdom Callum Ilott
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE AM :01'50.393
28 74 United Kingdom James Winslow
Australia John Corbett
Belgium Tom Cloet
Ligier JSP 217 LMP2 :03'57.555
29 49 Denmark Anders Fjordbach
Denmark Jan Magnussen
Denmark Kevin Magnussen
Oreca 07 LMP2 :01'47.968
30 60 Italy Claudio Schiavoni
Italy Paolo Ruberti
Italy Raffaele Giammaria
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE AM :02'55.737
31 77 Germany Christian Ried
Australia Jaxon Evans
Australia Matt Campbell
Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE AM :03'28.782
32 84 Japan Takuma Aoki
Belgium Nigel Bailly
France Matthieu Lahaye
Oreca 07 INNOVATIVE CAR :03'22.554
33 777 Japan Satoshi Hoshino
Japan Tomonobu Fujii
United Kingdom Andrew Watson
Aston Martin Vantage AMR LMGTE AM :01'20.816
34 18 Indonesia Andrew Haryanto
Belgium Alessio Picariello
Germany Marco Seefried
Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE AM :00'54.484
35 95 United Kingdom John Hartshorne
United Kingdom Ollie Hancock
United Kingdom Ross Gunn
Aston Martin Vantage AMR LMGTE AM :01'21.055
36 85 Switzerland Rahel Frey
Belgium Sarah Bovy
Denmark Michelle Gatting
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE AM :03'14.207
37 52 Brazil Daniel Serra
Spain Miguel Molina
United Kingdom Sam Bird
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE PRO :03'27.666
38 69 Germany Robert Renauer
Germany Ralf Bohn
Switzerland Rolf Ineichen
Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE AM :01'35.871
39 54 Switzerland Thomas Flohr
Italy Giancarlo Fisichella
Italy Francesco Castellacci
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE AM :04'15.815
40 22 United Kingdom Philip Hanson
Switzerland Fabio Scherer
Portugal Filipe Albuquerque
Oreca 07 LMP2 :01'51.294
41 71 United States Brendan Iribe
United Kingdom Ollie Millroy
United Kingdom Ben Barnicoat
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE AM :00'58.759
42 88 France Julien Andlauer
United States Dominique Bastien
Germany Lance David Arnold
Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE AM :02'04.599
43 86 United Kingdom Michael Wainwright
United Kingdom Benjamin Barker
United Kingdom Tom Gamble
Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE AM :02'59.412
44 64 United States Tommy Milner
United Kingdom Nick Tandy
United Kingdom Alexander Sims
Chevrolet Corvette C8.R LMGTE PRO :04'09.820
41 Poland Robert Kubica
Switzerland Louis Deletraz
China Ye Yifei
Oreca 07 LMP2 23:56'37.967
82 Ireland Ryan Cullen
United Kingdom Oliver Jarvis
Brazil Felipe Nasr
Oreca 07 LMP2 19:08'27.205
388 Germany Pierre Ehret
Germany Christian Hook
Netherlands Jeroen Bleekemolen
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE AM 20:21'46.823
24 United States Patrick Kelly
France Gabriel Aubry
Switzerland Simon Trummer
Oreca 07 LMP2 19:28'50.174
72 Belgium Dries Vanthoor
Portugal Alvaro Parente
Belgium Maxime Martin
Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE PRO 16:26'23.653
79 United States Cooper MacNeil
New Zealand Earl Bamber
Belgium Laurens Vanthoor
Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE PRO 10:27'21.538
46 Norway Dennis Olsen
Norway Anders Buchardt
United States Robby Foley
Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE AM 10:48'47.118
57 Japan Takeshi Kimura
Australia Scott Andrews
Denmark Mikkel Jensen
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE AM 9:46'32.228
66 France Thomas Neubauer
United States Rodrigo Sales
United Kingdom Jody Fannin
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE AM 9:20'35.788
55 United Kingdom Duncan Cameron
South Africa David Perel
Ireland Matthew Griffin
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE AM 8:36'05.287
25 United States John Falb
Spain Roberto Merhi
Portugal Rui Andrade
Aurus 01 LMP2 7:57'54.957
47 Italy Roberto Lacorte
Italy Giorgio Sernagiotto
Italy Antonio Fuoco
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE AM 6:56'22.572
56 Norway Egidio Perfetti
Italy Matteo Cairoli
Italy Riccardo Pera
Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE AM 6:20'24.435
32 France Nico Jamin
South Africa Jonathan Aberdein
Venezuela Manuel Maldonado
Oreca 07 LMP2 5:10'04.179
1 Colombia Tatiana Calderon
Germany Sophia Flörsch
Netherlands Beitske Visser
Oreca 07 LMP2 5:05'41.433
99 United Kingdom Harry Tincknell
Thailand Vutthikorn Inthrapuvasak
France Florian Latorre
Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE AM 4:54'53.633
98 Canada Paul Dalla Lana
Denmark Nicki Thiim
Brazil Marcos Gomes
Aston Martin Vantage AMR LMGTE AM 3:11'43.090
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