Ferrari goes back to back with No. 50 victorious at Le Mans

Ferrari AF Corse claimed a second Le Mans 24 Hours overall victory in a row with the 499P, its No. 50 trio of Miguel Molina, Antonio Fuoco and Nicklas Nielsen triumphant after fighting through rain showers and gruelling conditions to beat the Toyota, Porsche and Cadillac front-runners at the Circuit de La Sarthe

The first overall Le Mans (and WEC) win for the No. 50 crew came in front of a sellout crowd that stayed to the end to catch the conclusion of what will surely be considered an all-time classic; an epic-multi-manufacturer fight that was action-packed from lap one to 311.

In years to come this race will of course be remembered for its gripping finale, when Nielsen crossed the line running on air in the winning car, sparking tears of joy and wild celebrations in the Ferrari garage.


What will stand out most on reflection is surely the weather, and the role it played in the outcome. Rain showers came and went from the second hour all the way through to the end.

Time and time again the running order was shuffled in all three classes by sudden downpours — sometimes light, sometimes heavy — which forced all teams to make periodic gambles on tire choice. It also caused multiple safety cars which reset the field after comfortable gaps had been built by class leaders.

For everyone watching, it was a highly entertaining contest as the race ebbed and flowed through the changing conditions. It remained highly unpredictable right up to the flag and delivered on the promise that Balance of Performance racing makes.

The first half was a true battle for survival, many cars retiring or hitting trouble by nightfall before the race’s longest safety car for barrier repairs in heavy rain that lasted hours.

When the sun rose again, the field bunched up by safety cars, all three classes became a sprint in the closing hours between the cars on the lead lap. Proof of just how tight this was can be found on the final results sheet, the top nine in Hypercar finishing on the lead lap (remarkably, the first time in history more than two cars have done so), with the top four separated by less than 40s. If you ran this race again multiple times, you’d have likely seen wildly different outcomes.

The closing stages came down to a battle between four manufacturers. Porsche had its moments, and Cadillac did too, before Toyota and Ferrari became engaged in a head-to-head showdown while time ticked away.


In the end, Ferrari AF Corse survived the challenges of Mother Nature to defend its 2023 win and score its 11th overall victory.

With the trio of Fuoco, Nielsen and Molina prevailing, it was a stark change in fortunes after they were forced to watch from the sidelines as their teammates in the sister car claimed the historic victory in last year’s centenary edition.

Unsurprisingly, due to the conditions and the level of competition in Hypercar, this was a race that took everything out of the winning crew.

En route to victory, they overcame a late order to the pits to fix a malfunctioning door that wouldn’t stay closed, a rapidly depleting energy store and worn out rain tires on their third stint to beat the No. 7 Toyota Gazoo Racing GR010 to the line. The winners also narrowly avoided being handed a penalty for an unsafe release late in the race, and a penalty for a “technical infringement” that was investigated but not acted on by race control.

The final hour became a nail-biter with the No. 50 off sequence due to the dramas with the door. It pitted for a final time with 50 minutes remaining, forcing Nielsen to manage a lead gap and fuel save at the same time, while being chased hard by Toyota’s super sub Jose Maria Lopez.

Lopez, who got the call to replace injured Mike Conway just last week, was pushed to his limit in the run to the flag, fighting through power issues that required a control-alt-delete and recovering from a costly spin at the Dunlop Bridge. All this after the car had dropped precious time in the final hours to a pair of slow punctures that forced the car in for unscheduled tire changes.


Ultimately Lopez was unsuccessful in his pursuit of Nielsen — who finished with just two percent of his virtual energy tank left in the final stint — finishing 14s back in an admirable job of reminding the paddock of his talents behind the wheel of a prototype.

He, Kamui Kobayashi and Nyck De Vries can leave La Sarthe with their heads held high. They weren’t always the quickest (or even the quickest Toyota crew), but they left it all out on the field.

“There is no word at the moment,” declared Fuoco in reaction to the victory. “This is just amazing. All the team did an amazing job today and we deserve it.”

Nielsen waxed about how much of an achievement it is to have back-to-back victories shared by both Ferrari factory entries.

“It was, to be honest, a very long one,” he said. “Especially after the issue we had with the door…I actually thought everything was lost. I knew the pace was really good in the wet by the end. I mean, it was a very long last lap as well.

“I don’t even know what to say. It’s just amazing to be here, to finally win the race that I’ve always wanted to win. Seeing the sister car win it last year, was obviously a proud moment for everyone. And then, I think for us to take it this year – it’s an even greater achievement to do it back to back.”

Completing the podium was the sister factory Ferrari, which spent the closing moments trying to hold off the No. 6 Porsche Penske Motorsport 963 that Kevin Estre put on the pole Thursday night.

Laurens Vanthoor — who drove more than half the race in the No. 6 — clawed the Porsche closer to the No. 51 piloted by Pier Guidi and narrowed the gap a little over a second, but Pier Guidi held on for a third-place finish alongside James Calado and Antonio Giovinazzi.

Vanthoor, Estre and Andre Lotterer were fourth — Porsche’s wait for a 20th overall win here continues — with the No. 8 Toyota Gazoo Racing GR010 of Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa fifth.

One of the big question marks from the race concerns the No. 8 Toyota. The car was in the running for the win in the second half of the race, and would likely have been there or thereabouts for the victory at the end had the No. 51 Ferrari not turned it into a spin at Mulsanne Corner in the 22nd hour.

The time lost from that collision will surely be a topic of conversation in the race’s aftermath.

Buemi was captured by the TV cameras distraught after Pier Guidi and Hartley came together. He knew that was likely the moment their chances of scoring Toyota a sixth Le Mans win ended.

The No. 2 Cadillac Racing V-Series.R of Earl Bamber, Alex Lynn and Alex Palou looked in contention for a podium, but eventually finished seventh.

It was an extremely tough race for the three-pronged GM effort in the top class with Cadillac, but the No. 2, despite its finishing position, looked more likely to win than it did last year when it finished on the overall podium.

It wasn’t a fully clean race for the WEC-entered prototype, but it had pace in certain conditions and led during the final hours as the team was on a different pit strategy before fading. A detached wiper blade in heavy rain cost Lynn time and eventually dropped the car behind the No. 5 PPM 963 of Matt Campbell, Michael Christensen and Frederic Makowiecki.

Further back, JOTA’s pair of 963s came home eighth and ninth, as the final cars on the lead lap. For the plucky HERTZ Team JOTA squad, this wasn’t a barnstorming, romping victory like its most recent result in the WEC 6 Hours of Spa, but Sam Hignett, David Clarke and the whole team will leave Le Mans filled with pride.

JOTA was taxed to the extreme this week, particularly the mechanics on the No. 12 963 who had to build a car up from scratch ahead of the race after the original tub was damaged beyond repair in a practice incident. In just 24 hours the sleep-deprived team turned a bare monocoque into a fully built-up 963, in time to complete a pre-race shakedown on the airfield.


Remarkably, that car finished the race without any significant hiccups, coming home first of the four privateer Hypercars.

The No. 38 sister car took second in the Hypercar World Cup classification, while Proton claimed third despite a dire weekend for its privateer Porsche crew who battled a broken door and mechanical issues all the way to the end, finishing 60 laps down.

Off the lead lap, the first of Lamborghini’s SC63s came home 10th in what was an encouraging but quiet 24-hour debut for the new LMDh.

Peugeot also finished off the lead lap and outside the top 10 with its pair of 2024 9X8s. Both cars stayed reliable, though mostly invisible. It was not the performance on home soil the French marque would have hoped for when it finished the development work on its revised LMH challenger…

Due to the conditions, and the size of the Hypercar field (23 cars), there was a fair amount of attrition throughout.

For Alpine and its pair of A424s, the race was a total disaster, both cars retired with engine trouble before the 90-lap mark.

BMW’s M Hybrid V8s operated by Team WRT also had a weekend to forget — the No. 15’s performance in qualifying will seem like an age ago to the team, which now need to bounce back fast after both cars crashed out.

Ganassi’s No. 3 Cadillac was another car that showed pace pre-race, but failed to finish, the car suffering a punctured oil-tank.

Perhaps the most dramatic retirement, though, was that of the No. 83 AF Corse privately-entered 499P of Robert Kubica, Robert Shwartzman and Ye Yifei (which notably was penalized for wiping out the No. 15 BMW overnight).

The car, on occasion, looked like the strongest of the three Ferraris. Early on, as one of a few cars that stayed out on slicks during the first rain shower (the correct decision), the yellow 499P led the race on strategy and pace, only to be undone by a hybrid issue that prevented it from making the end.

Inter Europol Competition made a valiant effort to defend its 2023 LMP2 title, but in the end, the United Autosports No. 22 ORECA Gibson was just too strong. Anchored by the experienced Oliver Jarvis, a previous winner, with two Le Mans rookies in Bijoy Garg and rising star Nolan Siegel, the team demonstrated its strength throughout the race, putting a stamp on it at the end with a 18.651s gap to the No. 34 Inter Europol ORECA of Jakub Smiechowski, Vladislav Lomko and Clement Novalak.

“It’s unbelievable! First time here, there was so much to learn, and I’m so lucky to have done it with such a great group of people,” said Siegel before Garg added: “This is the best moment of my life.”

The No. 28 IDEC Sport team finished third with Paul Lafargue, Job van Uitert and Reshad de Gerus. AF Corse won the Pro-Am sub-category of LMP2, Francois Perrodo, Ben Barnicoat and Nicolas Varrone piloting the No. 183 ORECA to fourth in LMP2 overall.

Porsche claimed the first contest for LMGT3 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with Yasser Shahin, Morris Schuring and Richard Lietz piloting the No. 91 Manthey EMA 911 GT3 R to victory in the class’s introduction. The team had a comfortable margin over the No. 31 Team WRT BMW M4 GT3 of Augusto Farfus, Darren Leung and Sean Geleal. It appeared early on that the sister WRT BMW was in with a shot of victory for Valentino Rossi, Maxime Martin and Ahmad Al Harthy, but the No. 46 ended its day in a gravel trap.

Proton Competition’s Fords shocked with their performance and reliability, both of which had been largely absent in previous rounds of the World Endurance Championship, to not only claim the first podium for the Mustang GT3 but back it up with a fourth-place finish as well. It was the No. 88 of Dennis Olsen, Mikkel Pedersen and Giorgio Roda claiming the podium over Christopher Mies, Ben Tuck and John Hartshorne in the No. 44 Mustang GT3.

Full reports to follow.


Story originally appeared on Racer