Thrills and spills
The 24 Hours of Le Mans is a unique race, shoehorning what could only be described as an entire F1 season in a day.
In qualifying, the expected leaders in the LMP1 class, the Audi R18s both in hybrid and non-hybrid form, set the pace, and sealed the front row of the grid. They were challenged by Toyota, with a pair of TS030 hybrids, with one taking 3rd on the grid.
Over the course of the race, Audi stamped their dominance, overtaking the TS030 early on. The Toyotas mounted a fightback against the Audis, and even took the lead when the R18s went to the pits.
However, a series of unforeseen incidents emerged, with the Toyota TS030 Hybrid driven by ex-F1 driver Anthony Davidson being launched into the air and onto the barriers. The TS030 made contact with a much slower with an oblivious Ferrari 458 in the GTE class at full racing speed. The crash took out both cars and landed Davidson in the hospital with a broken back.
When racing resumed, the other Toyota TS030 driven by Kazuki Nakajima punted the sole Nissan DeltaWing entry into the wall after slicing and dicing with the Audis. The TS030 pitted soon after to replace the rear wing, but retired later on due to engine trouble.
The retirement of the two Toyota's left Audi with no clear challenger, and at the end of the 24 hours, the R18 e-tron quattro hybrids took 1st and 2nd, with the R18 ultras taking 3rd and 5th with a Toyota-powered Lola in 4th.
The Audis formed an impressive photo finish with all four R18s in formation at the drop of the checkered flag.
The overall winning car, the Number 1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro was driven by Andre Lotterer, Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer.
In the LMP2 class, the Nissan-powered Oreca car qualified at the head of the class, followed by a Judd-powered Morgan LMP2 entry. The two cars were followed by 4 Nissan-powered Oreca racecars from various teams.
At the end of 24 hours, an HPD-Honda prototype took the class win for Starworks Motorsport. The top three was rounded out by two Oreca 03 Nissans.
In the GT Professional category, qualifying saw the field being led by a Ferrari 458 GTC from Luxury Racing, a works Aston Martin Vantage GTE, and a works Chevrolet Corvette C6.R.
The LMGTEPro class was an action packed field with highly competitive, almost equal cars at the start. However, at the end of the race, it was the Ferrari 458 Italia GTC from AF Corse that took the class win, a car that didn't qualify at the top of the order due to the car needing to be rebuilt before qualifying.
In 2nd place was the Luxury Racing Ferrari 458 followed by works Aston Martin Vantage GTE.
Qualifying was nailed by the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Flying Lizard in the LMGTE Amateur class. It was followed by another GT3 RSR from ProSpeed Competition and another works Aston Martin Vantage GTE.
During the course of the 24 hour race, the class saw plenty of racing action, with the Number 81 Ferrari 458 figuring in that shunt with the TS030 hybrid. The 61 AF Corse-Waltrip Ferrari 458 also figured in a shunt that damaged and locked the front left wheel. Its driver, former NASCAR racer Brian Vickers, was able to return to the pit area (the incident happened early in the lap), but the car's stuck wheel and brakes were on fire. After a few minutes, the car was back out on the track.
The tail end of the race saw a late charge from the Chevrolet Corvette C6.R from Larbre Competition overtake the class leading Porsche 911 GT3-RSR of IMSA Performance to take the class win. The IMSA car also suffered a flat tire in the last few laps, but was able to make it back on track in 2nd place. In 3rd was the Krohn Racing Ferrari 458.