Le Mans 24h Race 2021 - Result & Analysis

Toyota is also continuing the success story with the new hypercars. The Japanese defend their title and win at Le Mans for the fourth time. This time, Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez win. In GT cars, Ferrari triumphs over Corvette and Porsche.

The race started on a wet track and ended on a dry track with another mandatory win for Toyota. It's the fourth in a row for the Japanese auto giant. And the first in the newly proclaimed Hypercar class, which is spearheading Le Mans in place of the old LMP1 cars. The success of the GR010 Hybrid with starting number 7 was never in jeopardy.

In the last three editions of the world's most famous 24-hour race, Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez each had to cede the biggest trophy in endurance racing to their teammates in the sister car. This time the trio struck themselves. This time things went well for her from the first minute of the race. Start driver Conway got through the first laps in the wet without any problems, while Buemi fell behind through no fault of his own.

Two creeping flat feet in the first part of the race forced the 7-series Toyota to pit twice earlier than originally planned, but hardly cost any time. The leading car managed and consistently timed the four safety car periods. Small slips on Sunday morning, Lopez tobogganed twice through the gravel trap, the GR010 Hybrid survived without any visible injuries. Kobayashi had the honor of driving the approximately 700 hp hybrid racing car to the finish. For the Japanese, like his teammates Conway and Lopez, it is the first victory at Le Mans.

The supremacy of Toyota

Five cars started in the new hypercar class. All five surprisingly survived the marathon distance, although only the Alpine A480 Gibson is based on proven technology. The number 36 car – driven by Nicolas Lapierre, André Negrão and Matthieu Vaxivière – is based on the old Rebellion R13. Like Glickenhaus, Alpine was not a real challenger for Toyota over the distance.

It was already clear in advance that the Japanese would only be able to trip over their own feet even after the change in regulations. Toyota has more money than its private competitors. More went into the preparation, the simulations are more sophisticated, the tools in the factory and on the race track are better, the hand movements are more practiced, the processes are more well-established. Toyota will only have equal competition in the next few years. 2022 probably with Peugeot, from 2023 with Porsche, Audi, Ferrari. As long as you fulfilled the duty.

And yet the GR010 with start number 8 showed that it was no walk in the park. Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley struggled through the 24 hours. At the start, the Glickenhaus (#708) with Olivier Pla at the wheel cleared them in the first chicane.The Frenchman misjudged the braking point and crashed into the rear of the Toyota.

You shouldn't take that much risk at the start of a 24-hour race. To Pla's defence, however, it has to be said that it had been dry at Le Mans all week. The pre-test, all the training sessions, the qualifying, the hyperpoles, the why-up. The drivers never did their laps on slippery ground. Two slow laps behind the pace car weren't enough for Pla to properly assess the track conditions.

Boring race for overall victory

Buemi dragged on, but his car was visibly damaged. In the first lap, the Swiss reset on the race track. In total, a minute and a half was lost to the sister car. It took 16 laps for Toyota to establish the double lead that should last to the finish. Although the 8 Series Toyota gradually threatened to fall apart. After two hours, Buemi collided with an LMP2 car and damaged a rim. On Sunday, the car began to vibrate - apparently starting from the underbody. The transmission tweaked in between, and the refueling in particular caused concern among engineers and mechanics.

They couldn't fill the tank of the second GR010 with enough fuel, which is why the stints were shortened. Sometimes only three to five laps before the next visit to the pits. Almost six hours before the end of the race, Buemi had to reset the electronics again on the Circuit de la Sarthe. With these ailments and a total of four more pit stops, there was nothing to be done against the sister car. At the finish, the Toyota separated two laps.

Not even intermittent showers brought excitement to the Toyota duel for overall victory. The fans at the racetrack and in front of the TV screens experienced the 7-series Toyota marching through from the first to the last meter. The four-wheel drive Toyota determined the pace in the wet and in the dry. They're also the only top-of-the-line cars that use a hybrid system.

Private duel: Alpine beats Glickenhaus

Alpine and Glickenhaus lost more than one and a half seconds in the Hyperpole on a fast lap. And even in race trim, the gap didn't shrink. On the contrary. In any case, what Alpine's strategy software had calculated - a loss of around one second per lap - did not materialize. Toyota mercilessly played off its advantages with the 7-series car. After three hours, the only Alpine (#36) was already lapped. At half-time, three laps separated him from the leader. Enough buffer for Toyota to exercise safety.

The private teams still did more than respectably. Alpine experienced a scare on lap two when Lapierre spun on the wet tarmac exit of Indianapolis and got caught in the clutches of the big field.It felt like an eternity before he was able to turn safely and drive on.

It could have been over for the French after seven hours. Matthieu Vaxiviere sailed into the gravel bed in the first chicane of the Mulsanne straight. It looked as if he had run into a wet spot while lapping and overbraked the rear axle as the tire temperature dropped. A crane had to help the A480 out of the case. Third place was gone for the time being. A duel then broke out against the Glickenhaus 007 LMH with Luis Felipe Derani, Franck Mailleux and Olivier Pla. The race to catch up still brought Alpine the podium.

The A480 mostly completed stints of 12 laps until refueling. Glickenhaus managed longer trips, saving himself over four minutes with three fewer pit stops, but in return he was slower on the track. After the accident in the starting phase, the 708 Glickenhaus suffered a penalty of ten seconds. First, the US racers struggled with the LMP2 cars. The longer the race lasted, the more one freed oneself from their clutches.

The problems of the previous six-hour races in the World Sportscar Championship - high brake wear, loose rear end in fast corners, traction control - were largely dealt with by the private US team. However, Alpine earned third place because of the speed. Billionaire Jim Glickenhaus will still have enjoyed his first Le Mans adventure. The second Glickenhaus 007 LMH (#709) failed to match the speed of its sister car all week and finished fifth.

Many accidents in the LMP2

In the LMP2, the field of favorites thinned out on Saturday evening. Things sorted themselves out during the night and brought the WRT team to a double lead. The Belgian team competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the first time and decided to win the class among themselves. In the early phase, the Jota team had determined what was happening. Antonio Felix da Costa excelled in the No. 38 Oreca 07 Gibson and was half a minute ahead of his pursuers in the wet. However, teammate Anthony Davidson sank the Jota-LMP2 in the gravel bed after 2:43 hours. The time loss of around seven minutes was the broken neck.

Things got wild in the LMP2 in the sixth hour of racing. Numerous accidents occurred when it started to rain. The cars stayed on slicks. Sophia Flörsch was involved in an incident. The G-Drive Aurus with Franco Colapinto at the wheel (start number 26) slid in front of the Munich native. A hit carried them into the crash barrier. Rolling back in front of the Porsche corners, James Winslow crashed into her side door in another LMP2 (#74). Flörsch had to go to the medical center for safety checks after the series of accidents, but was quickly released.

Last year's winners from United Autosport knocked themselves out due to accidents and technical problems.Manuel Maldonado (#32) shot sideways into Paul di Resta (#23) after a trip through the gravel bed of the first chicane on the GP circuit. The third United Autosport from the LMP2 was tormented by a defective alternator. So you had no chance.

WRT took advantage of the many failures. An hour and a half before the end of the race, there was an internal team swap. The 41 passed the 31. The second WRT suffered a problem with the built-in jacks in the closing stages. Robert Kubica, Louis Deletraz and Yifei Ye looked like certain victories in the prototypes, where pro drivers and amateurs mix. But in the last lap the 41er WRT rolled out. A drama that continued in suspense. Robin Frijns, Ferdinand Habsburg and Charles Milesi saved the class victory for WRT by 0.7 seconds compared to the Jota-Oreca with starting number 28. ,

Porsche only third force

In the LMGTE Pro, last year's winner Aston Martin was not at the start at all. Only Ferrari, Porsche and Corvette were registered in a thinned class field. Ferrari pedaled to victory ahead of Corvette. Porsche didn't have the speed to counter. The German sports car manufacturer had sorted out the reliability compared to 2020. But Porsche struggled with the vehicle classification of the RSR. To the surprise of experts, the 911 fell off the back. Ferrari and Corvette had the stronger package.

The Porsche drivers complained about the wrong tire choice at the start. The factory 911s lacked the necessary grip on a quickly drying track. Later in the race, the drivers were not entirely satisfied with the car's balance. On the straights, the Porsche could only keep up in the slipstream. Apparently the top speed was missing when driving freely.

Five hours before the checkered flag, Porsche changed position. The 92 (Kevin Estre, Neel Jani, Michael Christensen) were allowed to drive past the car of their colleagues (#91, Gianmaria Bruni, Richard Lietz, Frederic Makowiecki). An hour before the end, Makowiecki plowed through the last sector and then lost the rear section. More than the podium in the GT class for professionals with the 911 RSR with the starting number 92 was not possible for Porsche - especially since they were unlucky with the timing of the safety cars and lost time. Porsche left Le Mans with their heads hanging. The mechanics could still pat themselves on the back. They had rebuilt the 1992 car for the race after an accident in Hyperpole.

Ferrari victory also in LMGTE Am

Ferrari boxed his way to victory. Literally. On the way to the warm-up lap, the 488 GTE Evo of the eventual winners (James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi, Come Ledogar) demolished the rear diffuser of the Corvette C8.R with the 64. A foul that the Ferrari survived unharmed. Action team AF Corse had an advantage in terms of speed with their race car, although the Balance of Performance had robbed the Ferraris of around ten hp and allowed them three liters less fuel per stint.

Corvette was allowed to unload seven kilograms, showed better racing pace than expected, but was a bit slower. Even without the ten-second penalty for the C8.R with starting number 63, victory was not within reach. At least not on their own. But the Americans were so close that Ferrari could not afford a breakdown. A puncture and the Corvette would have been over. The cars were 41.6 seconds apart at the finish.

The sister car dealt with problems. On the '52 Ferrari, the left rear suspension gave out, requiring a lengthy repair in the pits. In addition, the car limped into the pits in the last third of the race with a puncture in the front right. The second Corvette retired from the fight for class success with clutch problems.

That leaves the GT class for amateur drivers. The trio of Francois Perrodo, Nicklas Nilsen and Alessio Rovera prevailed there (car number 83). Also Ferrari. Also AF Corse.


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