2018 24 Hours of Le Mans

2018 24 Hours of Le Mans
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The race-winning No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid
Layout of the Circuit de la Sarthe

The 86th 24 Hours of Le Mans (French: 86e 24 Heures du Mans) was an automobile endurance racing event held from 16 to 17 June 2018 at the Circuit de la Sarthe at Le Mans, France. It was the 86th running of the event, as organised by the automotive group, the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) since 1923. The race was the second round and the premier event of the 2018–19 FIA World Endurance Championship, with thirty-six of the race's sixty entries contesting the championship. Approximately 256,900 people attended the race. A test day was held two weeks prior to the race on 3 June.

The No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid of Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Fernando Alonso began from pole position after Nakajima recorded the fastest lap time in the third qualifying session. It and the sister No. 7 Toyota of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López exchanged the lead for the majority of the first half of the race until Buemi took a one-minute stop-and-go penalty for speeding in a slow zone that was enforced for an accident during the night. Alonso and Nakajima in the No. 8 Toyota retook the lead from the sister No. 7 car in the 16th hour and maintained it for the rest of the race to win. It was Alonso, Buemi and Nakajima's first Le Mans win and Toyota's first after 20 previous attempts. The sister Toyota of Conway, Kobayashi and López finished two laps behind in second, and the No. 3 Rebellion R13 of Thomas Laurent, Gustavo Menezes and Mathias Beche completed the race podium in third.

The Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class was led for 360 consecutive laps by the No. 26 G-Drive Racing Oreca 07 of Roman Rusinov, Andrea Pizzitola and Jean-Éric Vergne and was the first car to finish the race. However it was subsequently disqualified for running an illegal refuelling component and G-Drive lost an appeal. The class victory was taken by the No. 36 Signatech Alpine of Nicolas Lapierre, Pierre Thiriet and André Negrão. The No. 39 Graff-SO24 driven by Vincent Capillaire, Jonathan Hirschi and Tristan Gommendy was second and the No. 32 United Autosports Ligier JS P217 of Hugo de Sadeleer, Will Owen and Juan Pablo Montoya third. On its 70th anniversary Porsche won both of the Le Mans Grand Touring Professional (LMGTE) categories with the No. 91 911 RSR of Michael Christensen, Kévin Estre and Laurens Vanthoor, ahead of Richard Lietz, Gianmaria Bruni and Frédéric Makowiecki's No. 92 in Le Mans Grand Touring Professional (LMGTE Pro) and Dempsey-Proton's No. 77 driven by Matt Campbell, Christian Ried and Julien Andlauer won in Le Mans Grand Touring Amateur (LMGTE Am).

The result increased Alonso, Buemi and Nakajima's lead in the LMP Drivers' Championship to 20 points over their teammates Conway, Kobayashi and López in second. Beche, Laurent and Menezes retained third place and Lapierre, Thiriet and Negrão's victory in LMP2 moved them to fourth. In the GTE Drivers' Championship Christensen and Estre took the lead from Billy Johnson, Stefan Mücke and Olivier Pla. Toyota further extended their lead over Rebellion Racing in the LMP1 Teams' Championship to 27 points as Porsche went further ahead of Ford in the GTE Manufacturers' Championship with six races remaining in the season.

Background

The Circuit de la Sarthe, where the race was held.

The dates for the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans was confirmed at a meeting of the FIA World Motor Sport Council in its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland on 19 June 2017.[1] It was the 86th edition of the event,[1] and the second of eight scheduled automobile endurance racing events of the 2018–19 FIA World Endurance Championship.[2] The race was conceived at the 1922 Paris Motor Show by the automotive journalist Charles Faroux to Georges Durand, the president of the automotive group, the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) and the industrialist Emile Coquile as a means of prompting car manufacturers to test the reliability and fuel-efficiency of their racing vehicles and equipment.[3][4] It was not held in 1936 because of a general labour strike during the Great Depression,[5] and heavy damage sustained to the circuit in World War II cancelled it from 1940 to 1948.[4] The 24 Hours of Le Mans is considered one of the world's most prestigious motor races and is part of the Triple Crown of Motorsport.[6]

Before the race Toyota drivers Fernando Alonso, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima led the LMP Drivers' Championship with 26 points, eight ahead of their teammates Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López in second place and a further three in front of Mathias Beche, Thomas Laurent and Gustavo Menezes of the Rebellion team. The ByKolles trio of Tom Dillmann, Dominik Kraihamer and Oliver Webb were fourth with 12 points and SMP Racing's Mikhail Aleshin and Vitaly Petrov completed the top five with 10 points.[7] In the GTE Drivers' Championship Billy Johnson, Stefan Mücke and Olivier Pla of Ford Chip Ganassi Racing led on 25 points from the Porsche duo of Michael Christensen and Kévin Estre in second and AF Corse's Davide Rigon and Sam Bird third.[7] Toyota (26 points) led the LMP1 Teams' Championship by 11 points over Rebellion in second and ByKolles was a further three points behind in third as Porsche led Ford by four points in the GTE Manufacturers' Championship.[7]