The Le Mans 24 Hours 2019 created a multitude of stories. There were winners and losers throughout every hour of the race and in each and every class. Here we highlight just a few:
Winner: The No. 8 Toyota
It is in the history books already. The No. 8 Toyota won the Le Mans 24 Hours 2019. The Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050-Hybrid, driven by Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima & Fernando Alonso, crossed the line first and climbed to the top spot of the podium at the end of the race.
A strange one this. Throughout the race the No. 7 Toyota showed greater speed and performance. It lead through much of the race and was first from 2am until the last hour of the race. Then a puncture and sensor failure relegated the car to 2nd, allowing the more high profile No. 8 car to win. Conspiracy theorists will say that Toyota “engineered” the problem to allow their preferred team to win. Alternatively had Toyota allowed the No. 7 to regain the lead through team orders, they would have been criticized by the same theory. Ultimately Toyota were the only manufacturer in the field and all they could do was lose from there.
Winner: SMP Racing
By finishing 3rd overall and the first non-hybrid, non-manufacturer car, SMP Racing deserve a lot of credit. Their performance was unrecognizable from last year and they were good enough to hold off the never-ending challenge of Rebellion Racing
Winner: Signatech Alpine
The LMP2 class is crowded with excellent teams. By definition of LMP2 rules they all have similar machinery. So by winning the class at Le Mans 2019, Signatech-Alpine showed they are the class in the field. It also helped them to lift the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Winner: AF Corse Ferrari
Prior to Le Mans 2019 there was not much talk about Ferrari. They have been at Le Mans and in the FIA WEC for many years, but in qualifying they were quiet and in a class that featured 5 different manufactures (Porsche, Aston Martin, Ford, Corvette and Ferrari) some with 4 cars each, Ferrari were overlooked. That they came from behind to beat the favourites, shows that you should never overlook the prancing horse.
Loser: Aston Martin
The Le Mans 2019 weekend started so well for Aston Martin. On Thursday they claimed pole position in GTE Pro with an outstanding lap by Nicki Thiim, in the last few minutes, then on Friday following the ACO’s announcement on Hypercars for the 2020/21 season, Aston Martin announced they would be competing with two Aston Martin Valkyries. Then things turned for the worse. First they were hit with a Balance of Performance reduction, that sadly saw them unable to compete at the front, then as the cars dropped down the field, the cars suffered problems and ultimately they crashed out under the cover of darkness.
Winner: Ben Keating
Not many people would have predicted a win for the Purple Ford GT in the GTE Am Class at Le Mans 2019. However, with consistent speed and by avoiding incident, they claimed a well-deserved win. Ben Keating not only manages & brings the finances for the team together, but he drives as well. As the bronze driver (and potential weakest link in the driver line-up) it was the American’s performances behind the wheel that set the foundation for the win.
Written by Richard Webb
Photography by Dailysportscar