How the Americans Fared at the 24 Hours of Le Mans: Corvette Racing Earns Class Win

the 33 mobil 1siriusxm chevrolet corvette c8r driven by nicky catsburg, ben keating and nico varrone, takes the checkered flag while racing to victory in the gte am class sunday, june 11, 2023, winning the fia world endurance championship 100th 24 hours of le mans at circuit de la sarthe in le mans, france richard prince for corvette racing
How the Americans Fared at the 24 Hours of Le MansRichard Prince for Corvette Racing

Led by Corvette Racing’s extraordinary comeback victory in the GTE Am class, American teams for the most part lived up to expectations in a centenary running of 24 Hours of Le Mans that was wet and wild and wrapped up on Sunday.

The Cadillac V-Series.R entries of Chip Ganassi Racing upheld the LMDh reputation by finishing third and fourth. But the Porsche Penske Motorsport team was left scratching its collective head about a subpar performance.

Once again, the Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus showed that a smaller American manufacturer could hang with the bigger factories by completing the race with two entries that ran trouble free.


Here's how the American's fared:

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The podium in Hypercar class included The No. 02 Cadillac Racing drivers Earl Bamber of New Zealand, Alex Lynn of Great Britain and Richard Westbrook of Great Britain.James Moy Photography - Getty Images


No. 2 Cadillac Racing: Finished 3rd

No. 3 Cadillac Racing: Finished 4th

No. 708 Glickenhaus Racing: Finished 6th

No. 709 Glickenhaus Racing: Finished 7th

No. 311: Action Express Racing: Finished 10th in class, 17th overall

Cadillac scored its first podium and led its first laps at Le Mans thanks to the No. 2 Cadillac driven by Earl Bamber, Alex Lynn and Richard Westbrook. Bamber went to the point during the catawampus opening hours resulting from a wet start and two safety car periods.

Starting with a brief fire in qualifying, the fastest of the Cadillacs spent much of the Le Mans effort trying to recover from various incidents. That the No. 3 Cadillac of drivers Sebastien Bourdais, Ranger Van Der Zander and Scott Dixon—the entry from the IMSA WeatherTech Championship—finished fourth behind the steady podium run of the No. 2 car, the WEC regular entry, was a tribute to persistence and pace.

Twice Bourdais was rear-ended on board the yellow No. 3. Once he managed to get back on the lead lap before the second incident dropped it one lap down.

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It was mission accomplished for Cadillac, which made it to the podium at Le Mans.JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER - Getty Images

“We’ve been the quickest car, or one of the quickest cars out there,” said Bourdais. “It’s been an awesome day driving. Just not the right circumstances for us. We had one opportunity to get back on the lead lap, which I took. I overtook the leader and started to pull away. I had about a 30-second gap and then that (LMP2 car) just turned on me. I wasn’t taking any prisoners at that stage.”

When the rain cleared and the safety car periods ended, the Caddies got outpaced by the leading Ferrari and Toyota LMH entries, custom-designed for Le Mans.

Hypercar entry Glickenhaus Racing, which made the podium in 2022, finished a solid sixth and seventh overall in Glickenhaus 007 cars. The No. 708 of drivers Romain Dumas, Ryan Briscoe and Olivier Pla finished sixth, seven laps back. The No. 709 driven by Franck Malleux, Nate Berthton and Esteban Gutierrez was next, nine laps behind the winners.

Unfortunately, the damp track at the start led to the No. 311 Action Express Racing Cadillac of drivers Jack Aitken, Alex Sims and Pipo Dirani being driven by Aitken into the barrier at the exit of the second chicane on the opening lap. Returning after extensive repairs, it finished 18 laps down.

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The Corvette Racing Corvette C8.R and drivers Ben Keating, Nicky Catsburg and Nicolas Varrone rallied to win at Le Mans.Clive Rose - Getty Images


No. 33 Corvette Racing: Finished 1st in class, 26th overall

In its last Le Mans start as the GM factory team and in the last appearance of the C8.R, Corvette Racing experienced the highs and lows of the French 24-hour—in just the first two and a half hours.

The No. 33 Corvette Racing team of drivers Nicky Catsburg, Ben Keating and Nico Varrone notched the team's ninth win at Le Mans, but not without a little drama.

After starting on the class pole won by Keating, Catsburg was doing fine until the front suspension became wonky. A shock replacement resulted in the Corvette dropping to 21st and the bottom of the GTE Am class leaderboard.

To add insult, the team believed it regained one lap under a Safety Car period, only to be thwarted by the ACO officials allowing the class leader to leave the pits without waiting for a subsequent Safety Car. Undeterred, the Corvette went from the bottom to the top on pace and well executed pit stops. The constant crashing and pitting for repairs of other class participants in tricky conditions aided the stunning comeback.

Texan Keating, the gentlemen driver who can outpace the non-pros in the other entries, helped start the comeback with a triple stint in the night. When rival teams started putting their gentlemen drivers behind the wheel during the daylight hours, the Corvette team was ready to pounce with gold-rated Catsburg and silver-rated Varonne.

“All of our strategy completely went out the window,” said Keating of the broken shock. “We had everything lined up and planned exactly how we were going to do it. Nico got sick and I didn’t plan on doing any driving (at night), and I ended up driving from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. I didn’t plan on doing any driving in the rain, and I ended up having a stint in the rain. Everything got turned on its head. It turned out that it was exactly what we needed to get our laps back. The way we won it is special. To feel like it was out of reach and then watch this team claw back and get victory out defeat’s grasp was really special.”

It was the ninth victory at Le Mans in the GT classes for Corvette Racing, which will give way after 25 years to customer teams when the new Z06 GT3.R arrives next year.

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Team owner Roger Penske and Porsche came up short in his bid for a Le Mans podium.Clive Rose - Getty Images


No. 9 Porsche Penske Motorsport 963: Finished 9th

N0. 6 Porsche Penske Motorsport 963: Finished 11th in class, 22nd overall

Celebrating its 75th year as a manufacturer known for its reliability, the Porsche Penske Motorsport team had little to cheer about at Le Mans. The American-based 963 went kaput with a fuel pressure problem before halfway and the No. 5 entry of drivers Dane Cameron, Michael Christensen and Frederick Makowiecki from the WEC ranks fell out of contention in the 10th hour with a leaking conduit pipe, then took a time out in the garage prior to finishing 13 laps off the pace

The final hope for a podium, the No. 6 car driven by Kevin Estre, Andre Lotterer and Laurens Vanthor crashed in the Porsche Curves with Estre behind the wheel in the 17th hour, resulting in a 22-lap deficit at the finish.

The highlight of the race for Porsche was American Dane Cameron’s rapid and confident pace in the wet on board the No. 5 car after the second safety car period.

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The top United Autosports entry of American team owner Zak Brown finished eighth in LMP2.Clive Rose - Getty Images


No. 23 United Autosports: Finished 8th in class, 18th overall

No. 22 United Autosports: Finished 11th in class, 21st overall

Another team literally running into problems was the United Autosports LMP2 team co-owned by American Zak Brown and based in Britain.

Its No. 22 car driven by Phil Hanson, Filipe Albuquerque, and Frederick Lubin broke loose during the wet running in the opening hours with Lubin behind the wheel. Unfortunately, it collected the No. 16 Proton Competition Porsche, resulting in heavy damage to both cars.

The No. 23 UA entry, where American Josh Pierson was a co-driver along with Tom Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis, ran into brake problems. After leading the LMP2 class three times midway in the race, Blomqvist went into the travel at Mulsanne Corner, the beginning of the brake problems. He had a heavy impact at Indianapolis. Jarvis suffered a punctured tire in the closing stages.

“We got off to a great start, charging through the field,” said Pierson. “We survived the rain. Tom unfortunately went off and then found himself without any brakes. The crew did a great job of putting everything back together. But it was hard for me to get in and have complete confidence in the brake pedal. It was mentally challenging, but I overcame it.”

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The Garage 56 entry of NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports was running at the end of the 24 hours.James Moy Photography - Getty Images

Garage 56

NASCAR/Hendrick Motorsports: Finished 39th overall.

When Jimmie Johnson and the Hendrick Motorsports ZL1 completed its 285th and final circuit of the 8.5-mile track, it comprised a victory lap given the team’s goal to be running at the checkers as an innovative Garage 56 entry.

Considering the difficult mixed conditions in the first nine hours that saw just about half of the field involved in various types of incidents, the Hendrick crew of Johnson, Mike Rockenfeller and Jenson Button drove an incredibly consistent and smart race.

The modified NASCAR Cup car became only the second to complete the race in the 11-year history of the Garage 56 invitations. NASCAR Chairman and CEO Jim France, who initiated the program in conjunction with the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, invoked the memory of NASCAR founder “Big Bill” France, his father, and his brother Bill, who promoted NASCAR’s last visit to the French circuit in 1976.

“I hope my dad and my brother are somewhere up there looking down and smiling,” Jim France said. “But the goal when we set out was to try and finish the race running at the end and not be last. And we accomplished that.”

Only a brake pad change and then a drive-line issue that required one hour to repair prevented the team from finishing among the GTE Am class leaders. The Camaro was running behind nine of those entries at the end and was 39th among the 62 starters.

When Johnson emerged from the heaviest rain that fell not long after midnight at the beginning of his second stint, the team began focusing on maintaining a pace that would keep it among the GTE leaders, a prospect eventually sundered by the driveline issue.

“It was frightening, especially how it took place,” said Johnson of his drive through the wet in the dark. “There was a pop-up shower at the start of the lap and it was just pouring. I came around a corner on slicks and it was just a downpour. But we brought the car around and put wets on it to really try to understand how the wets would perform. We probably ran two or three too many laps on the wets and (the tires) really fell apart once the track started to dry. We put the slicks back on and we were the fastest GT-style car on the track and were running the guys down.”

The confidence about its pace led to a surge of esprit that lasted until the 21-hour mark and the one-hour stop in its garage. “When we saw that we were in the hunt to be leading the GT class is when we switched from a bit of ‘Let’s just cruise here’ to ‘Alright we can actually race a lot of these guys,’” said Jordan Taylor, the team’s reserve driver and Le Mans advisor.