After a 50-year absence, Ferrari returned to the 24 Hours of Le Mans and won the race, toppling Toyota who had held a five-year winning streak. Ferrari competed in the new hyperclass category, which features hybrid technology. The team developed a two-car effort over several years, with the hopes of ending Toyota’s reign at Le Mans. The team’s chances improved after Kamui Kobayashi was wrecked out of the race, leaving it two versus one in favor of Ferrari. The team of Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado, and Antonio Giovinazzi won the race with Ferrari Formula One driver Charles Leclerc in the garage watching.
The race took place at Circuit de la Sarthe, and Ferrari swept the front row in qualifying and handled every challenge from Toyota to complete 342 laps of the 8.467-mile track, the fewest by any victor since 2001. “It’s emotional. Unbelievable. I have no words,” said Giovinazzi, a former F1 driver, told Eurosport television. “It’s a great achievement, and after so long, I think this one will go down in history for sure,” said Calado. The trio had a solid lead, and Ferrari‘s second car finished fifth; the top-finishing Porsche from Team Penske finished sixth.
The ultra-competitive race featured a controversial “balance of performance” adjustment, which added weight to Toyota’s dominant GR010s to level the playing field. The adjustment gave Ferrari the advantage it needed to win the race. The new hyperclass category, which allows competitors from IMSA to compete at Le Mans, attracted a sold-out crowd of over 300,000 spectators, including NASCAR owner Jim France, who brought a stock car to the race to represent the American series in its 75th anniversary season. NASCAR had last made an appearance at Le Mans in 1976, and it returned this year with a version of its second-year Next Gen car.
The new hyperclass also brought Cadillac back to both IMSA and WEC with Ganassi and Porsche with Roger Penske. During the race, the defending race winner Ryō Hirakawa hit a wall, eliminating the defending champions’ chances at a repeat. The team of Earl Bamber, Alex Lynn, and Richard Westbrook took the final spot on the podium, with the IMSA team of Sebastien Bourdais, Renger van der Zande, and Scott Dixon finishing fourth.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.