Rainy 24 Hours of Le Mans Leaves Top Hypercar Teams Scratching Heads

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How Rain Strategies Decided 24 Hours of Le MansFRED TANNEAU - Getty Images

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  • Ferrari factory’s No. 50 499P team made the right pit stop choices to give Ferrari it's second straight Le Mans triumph.

  • Porsche Penske Motorsports' Roger Penske, still looking for his first win at Le Mans, saw his pole-sitting car finish fourth.

  • The Mustang LMGT3 cars of Proton Competition didn't win, but they had their best event of the four-race WEC season.

Constant rain during the Le Mans 24-hour created an epic race that left a lot of teams scratching their heads over what might have been. For the American prototype teams in the Hypercar class, it could have been better.


The Porsche Penske Motorsport and Cadillac Racing teams disputed the lead regularly thanks in part to rain strategies. In the end, they were not fast enough.

It was the Ferrari factory’s No. 50 499P team (Niklas Nielsen, Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina) that made the right pit stop choices during the rainy segments and had the speed during the dry to win.


Neither a Porsche 963 nor the Cadillac V-Series.R had the pace over 24 hours to make the podium. Despite fresher rain tires, the pole-winning No. 6 Porsche 963 in the hands of the Penske team’s Laurens Vanthoor could not find a way past the third-placed Ferrari of Alessandro Pier Guidi in the closing laps that fittingly featured a downpour.

The 963 co-driven by Kevin Estre and Andre Lotterer missed the podium by 1.167 seconds, but earned enough points to continue as the leaders after four rounds of the World Endurance Championship.

“Our No. 6 and 5 cars pulled out all stops during the last four hours,” said Jonathan Diuguid, managing director Porsche Penske Motorsport. “Our crew also pushed the strategic limits to the edge when it came to tire choice. We really wanted to challenge Ferrari and Toyota for victory.

“We had set ourselves higher goals,” continued Diuguid. “Still, things went much better than last year.”

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Pole sitter Kevin Estre and Porsche Penske Motorsport finished less than 2 seconds short of a podium finish.Eurasia Sport Images - Getty Images

Sooner or later, all the teams got the timing wrong on their choices of slicks or wets in the rain that rarely fell across the entire 8.47-mile track during the five different onsets of precipitation that started in the opening hour. But in the dry, the American teams were on the wrong side of tire wear compared to the Ferraris and the Toyota GR010 Hybrids, which finished second and fifth.

The all-wheel-drive Hypercar platforms saved the degradation of their rear tires just enough to fare better than the rear-drive LMDh platforms of Cadillac and Porsche during double or triple stints in the dry.

An early tire decision hurt the pole-winning No. 6 Porsche, which was pitted from the lead for wet tires shortly after rain began to fall in the opening minutes. The car languished in mid-pack for the next nine hours. “When I was in the car at the beginning of the race, we switched from slicks to wet tires – and then immediately back again,” said Lotterer. “That cost us a few positions. But we made progress in the first half of the night.”

The Porsches were consistent, if not always fast enough. The No. 5 Porsche Penske entry of Matt Campbell, Michael Christensen and Frederick Makowiecki came home sixth, one minute 45 seconds behind of the winner. The two Team Jota Porsche 963s finished eighth and ninth. After an incident-filled race, Felipe Nasr’s off in the No. 4 forced the third Porsche Penske to retire.

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Cadillac led the race late, but finished seventh after the final cycle of pits.Ker Robertson - Getty Images

The No. 2 Cadillac of Alex Lynn, Earl Bamber and Alex Palou led the race in the final hours due to out-of-sync pit stops before finishing seventh. “It’s been a close fight, led a lot of laps and Ferrari and Toyota coming out just a little better than us similar to last year,” said Alex Lynn, who narrowly missed the top spot during Hyperpole. “We’ll regroup and go again. I’m proud of the efforts of everybody at Cadillac, Chip Ganassi Racing and those who support us.”

Palou was at the wheel at the finish after driving in the rain at night for the first time. "It was a lot of fun till the end, just because of that hope of trying to get the win (before) failing at the end.”

A heavy meeting with the tire wall at Indianapolis Sunday morning with Pipo Derani on board took the Action Express Cadillac, which returned after repairs, out of contention. An oil leak sidelined the No. 3 Cadillac with just over five hours to go after it had spent much of the race in the top 10.

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The winning Oreca 07 of United Autosports took the top spot in LMP2.Eurasia Sport Images - Getty Images

United Autosports Takes Top Step in LMP2

The United Autosports Oreca-Gibson 07 crew (Oliver Jarvis, Bijoy Garg, Nolan Siegel) brought a second LMP2 class victory to the team co-owned by American Zak Brown and Britain’s Richard Dean. Jarvis was behind the wheel at the checkers, 18.651 seconds ahead of the Inter Europol Competition Oreca.

The Oreca of OT by TF, which combined the IMSA and WEC teams, came home second in the Pro/Am class behind AF Corse. Drivers Louis Deletraz, PJ Hyett and Alex Quinn finished fifth in class.

The United Autosports Pro/Am entry, where Ben Keating was the bronze driver, finished well off the pace after a couple of off-course excursions by the Texan. The CrowdStrike Oreca co-driven by bronze driver George Kurtz and American Colin Braun retired early.

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The No. 88 Proton Competition team put a Mustang on the podium at Le Mans.Eurasia Sport Images - Getty Images

Mixed Bag for Mustang, Corvette in LMGT3

There may be no such thing as moral victories in racing, but the Mustang LMGT3 cars of Proton Competition had their best event of the four-race WEC season, starting with Ben Barker’s provisional pole on Wednesday in the No. 77 Mustang. The No. 88 Mustang (Michael Wainright, Daniel Serra, Riccardo Pera) earned a podium finish behind the winning Manthey Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R and the BMW M4 GT3 of WRT.

The No. 44 Mustang (John Hartshorne, Ben Tuck, Christopher Mies) came home fourth.

Embarking on a customer program for the new Z06 GT3.R, the TF Sport team’s Corvettes suffered through a desultory effort. Driver Charlie Eastwood said that the team was struggling for pace midway in the race, which saw a three-hour Safety Car period due to rain.

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No Corvette made the podium but they were both running at the end. Eurasia Sport Images - Getty Images

Corvette's two cars finished 11th and 15th in class.

Eastwood was happy to see the finish. “It threw close to everything at us,” he said, “especially with the weather and conditions. There were a lot of tricky stints. There wasn’t a single stint in full dry conditions, which I can’t believe in a 24-hour race.”