Even with the rain, the 2024 24 Hours of Le Mans was one for the books

On reflection, the 2024 running of the Le Mans 24 Hours last weekend was a truly special one. Held in front of a sell-out crowd, in treacherous conditions, it would have likely delivered a classic race even if it was run without a bumper top class packed with factory teams.

The fact it featured 23 Hypercars from nine manufacturers doing battle and four of the factory teams in the mix for the race win throughout made it all the more remarkable. All the way to the final lap, it was frantic and unpredictable, the only real pause in the action coming overnight under safety car in heavy rain.

For Ferrari, this result serves as yet another page-turner of a chapter for its illustrious sportscar story, an 11th overall win at the most important endurance race in the world, its 40th total win (including class victories) and a second in a row.


And for the current Ferrari AF Corse Hypercar program specifically, this win means that both its crews have claimed the ultimate prize, with all three of the No. 50 drivers – Miguel Molina, Nicklas Nielsen and Antonio Fuoco – winning the race overall for the first time too.

“Our first and third place at Le Mans is a testament to how teamwork allows us to accomplish extraordinary results,” said Ferrari’s president John Elkann.

“I would therefore like to thank everyone who, during these extremely tough 24 hours, have shown courage and great tenacity. It gives me great pleasure that, with this year’s and last year’s result, all the Ferrari drivers have won at Le Mans – and with them all of Ferrari.

“Only a very cohesive and committed team could achieve this historic result.”

Nielsen, who is the third Danish driver to win the Le Mans 24 Hours after John Nielsen and nine-time winner Tom Kristensen, has been a main subject of the post-race discourse after a heroic performance at the end of the race.

Most impressive was his composure under the highest levels of pressure imaginable. In the closing stages, with the car in the lead, Nielsen was tasked with navigating the circuit in heavy rain while pulling on the passenger side door, which popped open and wouldn’t shut.

His efforts to shut the door proved ineffective, meaning he then had to stay focused after making an unscheduled stop and manage the gap to the chasing No. 7 Toyota in the last hour, with his virtual energy tank – which dropped to two per cent by the end – rapidly depleting.

“I thought everything was lost,” he said. “I knew the pace was good in the wet at the end, but it was a long last stint and a long last lap.

“It was impossible to imagine. I worried about avoiding any risks and getting to the finish line as quickly as possible. I just had to manage the lead.”

The celebrations told their own story, with Nielsen screaming on the radio to the team, mechanics bundling on each other in the garage with Fuoco and Molina both in floods of tears. And they will continue for days to come back at base in Maranello, where the workforce at the factory will surely receive recognition for helping the team go back-to-back at the biggest race of the year.

This was a victory made even sweeter when you consider the journey that the crew had been on since their debut in Sebring last March. They have frequently been quickest in the Hypercar field, setting pole three times and leading multiple races, but a breakthrough had eluded them until now.

“Man, we’ve been so unlucky,” Nielsen told RACER ahead of Le Mans race week, reflecting on the No. 50’s various struggles and misfortune. “But we are going back to Le Mans with a different mentality.”

Nielsen (right) spent some of the final part of the race battling a Toyota, and the rest of it battling with his passenger-side door. Image by JEP/Motorsport Images

This was a driver crew that had been humbled time and time again and was desperate for a turnaround, racing for a team that has been licking its wounds since it made a critical strategic error in changeable conditions on home soil at Imola back in April which cost it a win.

It was therefore fitting that after staying out on slicks in that race proved to be the wrong call, this time in the rain it was the team’s call to change to wets at the right time that helped secure the win.

“In a couple of moments, we risked to stay on slicks, but the last call to change to wets came at the right moment,” Molina, who has become the third Spaniard to win the race, said.

“It was unbelievable. We experienced tense moments but we got through them and I am really proud.”

“No words can capture the moment,” added Fuoco.

On the other side of the result, Toyota Gazoo Racing will wonder what could have been. Yet again, in a race with stiff competition, it leaves Le Mans with runners-up honors.

The team has been left to ponder whether the No. 8 GR010 would have won had it not been hit by the No. 51 Ferrari in the final hours, or if the No.7 would have caught the No. 50 in the final hour had it not suffered power issues, two punctures and lost time to a spin at the Dunlop Bridge.

Nevertheless, the general demeanor of the Toyota team after the race was noticeably different to last year.

Anger and frustration were displayed in equal measure after centenary Le Mans; it felt its chances of victory were severely blunted by the Balance of Performance process and the decision to bring back tire warmers.

While there were some controversial moments and decisions this time around, the Japanese team clearly felt it was a fairer fight.

“I want to congratulate Ferrari, Car 50 and 51, they did an amazing job,” super-sub Jose Maria Lopez said.

“We tried our best. When you look at the competition this year, we had two punctures in the race, problems which affected our speed. We are still proud to be in this position,” Kobayashi concluded.

“Such a close finish makes us hungry to come back stronger next year and we will do our best to achieve that.”

For FIA WEC fans, the Toyota-Ferrari rivalry has been one to watch for a while now, and looks set to rage for some time yet.

With the No. 50 and No. 7 crews separated by just eight points in the standings heading into the 6 Hours of Sao Paulo next month, and in striking distance of the No. 6 Penske Porsche trio that finished fourth, expect plenty of fireworks in the second half of the season…

Story originally appeared on Racer