Sebastien Buemi, Fernando Alonso and Kazuki Nakajima claimed victory in the 88th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050.
The other Toyota, car #7 of Dragon Racing's Jose Maria Lopez and former Formula E pilots Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi, finished just under 17 seconds behind; although this wasn’t the true picture of how the race panned out.
The #7 Toyota had been the longtime leader of the race and Conway decided to show that they meant business this year by breaking the race lap record on just the fourth tour of the Circuit de la Sarthe.
A lock-up by Lopez during the night at Mulsanne Corner handed the lead to the sister car and they also lost out during one of the numerous safety car periods overnight.
However, heading into the last hour, they looked like they were on course for the win - right up until Lopez got a message telling him he had a right-front puncture but as he was near the pits, he lost a relatively small amount of time.
Then he got a message telling him he had a right rear puncture, and he had to pit again - losing the lead to the sister car, that had been lagging behind for the majority of the previous 23 hours.
After losing the lead and the subsequent final stops for fuel, Lopez drove like somebody who was more than just mildly aggrieved about losing a win in such a way, taking multiple seconds out of Nakajima’s lead.
Third place, and leading privateer, was the #11 SMP Racing BR1 – AER of Vitaly Petrov, Mikhail Aleshin and HWA Racelab's Stoffel Vandoorne after they had a relatively quiet race compared to others in the class.
Their only real drama of note came when they ran over some debris from the # 3 Rebellion Racing R13 – Gibson but this didn’t do much damage and they were back on track soon after.
The #1 Rebellion Racing R13 – Gibson of DS Techeetah's Andre Lotterer, confirmed Season 6 Porsche FE racer Neel Jani and former Mahindra driver Bruno Senna came home fourth after suffering from a cut right rear tyre and a spin in the early stages of the race with Senna behind the wheel.
The other Rebellion Racing entry, the #3 showed fantastic speed during the times when it was on track.
They finished last of the finishers in the LMP1 class thanks to a number of penalties and incidents such as Gustavo Menezes getting stuck in the gravel at the Porsche Curves and Thomas Laurent had an off on the Mulsanne Straight under breaking for the second chicane.
The main car of interest in the class was the #26 G-Drive Racing Aurus 01 – Gibson of Roman Rusinov, Job van Uitert and DS Techeetah's Jean-Eric Vergne and, for most of the race, things were going well for them, apart from the early penalty they were given for speeding under full course yellow.
They were leading and earlier on in the race, had been scrapping with the #36 Signatech Alpine Matmut Alpine A470 – Gibson of the eventual winners, Nicolas Lapierre, Andre Negrao and Pierre Thiriet.
The increasing stronghold the team had on the class was stopped rather abruptly with a few hours to go after the starter motor stopped starting the car.
This necessitated a trip to the garage and the car emerged around 20 minutes later but by then, the damage had been done and their reward for the team’s hard work was a 6th placed finish although unlike last year, at least they haven’t been disqualified at the time of publishing.
Behind the #36 was the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07 – Gibson of Jaguar Racing reserve driver Ho-Pin Tung, Stefan Richelmi and Gabriel Aubry and rounding out the podium was the similar Oreca, the #28, of Francois Perrodo, Mathieu Vaxiviere and former Dragon Racing pilot Loic Duval for TDS Racing.
It wasn’t the best showing for the Formula E drivers in this class. This was thanks to a BOP change that was made on Friday which saw the Aston Martin Racing entries lose out massively.
The #97 Vantage AMR of Jaguar Racing driver Alex Lynn, Maxime Martin and Jonathan Adam came off best despite an accident with Lynn behind the wheel overnight at the Porsche Curves and a fuel pump issue, both of which resulted in lengthy stops for repairs. They finished 46th overall, 60 laps down on the leaders.
The class was won by the #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo of James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Daniel Serra ahead of the #91 Porsche 911 RSR of Richard Lietz, Gianmaria Bruni and Frederic Makowiecki, and the #93 Porsche for Patrick Pilet, Earl Bamber and Nick Tandy.
The #71 AF Corse Ferrari of Envision Virgin Racing driver Sam Bird, Davide Rigon and Miguel Molina was forced to retire on lap 140 with engine issues.
The #85 Keating Motorsport Ford GT of Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Felipe Fraga were popular winners in the Ford GT’s first race run by a team other than Ford Chip Ganassi Racing.
Rounding out the podium was the #56 Team Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR of Jorg Bergmeister, Patrick Lindsay and Egidio Perfetti, and the #84 JMW Motorsport Ferrari 488 GTE of Jeff Segal, Rodrigo Baptista and Wei Lu.
Update: The #85 Keating Motorsport Ford GT was disqualified from the results due to the fuel tank being 0.1 litres larger than what they had been permitted to run in the pre-race BoP table.
They had previously been given a 55.2 second time penalty for not meeting the minimum refuelling time of 45 seconds.
This pushes the #56 Team Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR to the class win, the #84 JMW Motorsport Ferrari 488 GTE moves up to second and the #62 WeatherTech Racing Ferrari 488 GTE of Cooper MacNeil, Toni Vilander and Robert Smith get promoted to the class podium.
In LMP1, the #8 Toyota of Sebastien Buemi, Fernando Alonso and Kazuki Nakajima won the 2018-19 World Endurance LMP Drivers' Championship ahead of the #7 of Jose Maria Lopez, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi.
This means that Nakajima becomes the first Japanese FIA World Champion in any discipline, while Buemi now has 2 FIA WEC titles (2014 and 2018-19) to go along with his 2015-16 Formula E crown.
Gustavo Menezes and Thomas Laurent from the #3 Rebellion were third with Andre Lotterer and Neel Jani in fifth, Stoffel Vandoorne in eleventh and Tom Dillmann in seventeenth.
In LMP2, the #36 Signatech Alpine Matmut entry of Nicolas Lapierre, Andre Negrao and Pierre Thiriet narrowly beat out the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing lineup of Ho-Pin Tung, Stefan Richelmi and Gabriel Aubry for the Endurance Trophy for LMP2 Drivers. Rounding out the top three was the #31 Dragonspeed for Roberto Gonzalez and Pastor Maldonado.
GTE-Pro consisted of a Porsche/Ferrari sandwich with the #92 of Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen beating the #51 AF Corse Ferrari of Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado to the World Endurance GTE Drivers' Championship, with the #91 Porsche in third for Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz.
Finally, in GTE-Am the 56 Team Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR of Jorg Bergmeister, Patrick Lindsay and Egidio Perfetti won the Endurance Trophy for LMGTE Am Drivers at their first attempt, beating the #77 Dempsey Proton Racing Porsche of Christian Reid and Matt Campbell into second.
The #90 TF Sport Aston Martin of Charlie Eastwood and Salih Yoluc and the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari of Francesco Castellacci, Giancarlo Fisichella and Thomas Flohr were joint third.
Boulevard of Broken Dreams
They walked a lonely road and unfortunately, not all starters make it to the end and this year was no exception!
The #4 ByKolles Racing Team Enso CLM P1 /01 – Gibson retired during the night owing to gear shifter failure according to Tom Dillmann’s twitter feed.
The #17 SMP Racing entry of former Venturi/Andretti/Techeetah racer Stephane Sarrazin, Sergey Sirotkin and Egor Orudzhev retired on the spot when Orudzhev crashed heavily at the Porsche Curves.
The #31 Dragonspeed LMP2 car was accounted for following an accident for Pastor Maldonado and the #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing entry had gear failure in the Porsche Curves.
Meanwhile, in GTE-Pro, the #71 Ferrari of Sam Bird, Davide Rigon and Miguel Molina retired as a result of engine issues whilst the #95 Aston Martin and the #64 Corvette suffered large accidents which saw both Marco Sorensen and Marcel Fassler walk away respectively.
Finally, GTE-Am saw the #98 Aston Martin retire through mechanical issues early on and the #88 Dempsey Proton Porsche retired after the amateur driver in that car, Satoshi Hoshino, didn’t feel comfortable in racing on.
Photo: Rob Lomas