Toyota #7 ends #8 dominance, taking Le Mans 24H victory

Toyota #7 during the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Co-authored by Anton Hreskiv, Leon Kerninger, Luciano Calamante, Tushar Raja, and Davide Bini.

Toyota #7 managed to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans ahead of #8, making it a Toyota 1-2. Team WRT won in the LMP2 class with car #41. Ferrari won both in the LM GTE Pro and Am class with cars #51 and #83.

The wait was over and the time finally came for the 89th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which was the first for the Hypercar class. Just ahead of the start, weather spiced things up as big winds and rain appeared at Circuit de la Sarthe. The track surface was still too wet, so the race direction decided to have two additional formation laps, which were included in the 24 hours.

After nearly 13 minutes of additional formation laps, the racing action was finally underway and the opening lap was full of drama and chaos, which included the collision between Olivier Pla and Sebastien Buemi. The no.8 Toyota driver had a lot of drama further down the lap. Numerous other drivers also had incidents and spins. Nicolas Lapierre in the no.36 Alpine was another victim of tricky conditions as he spun and lost second place.

As the race was progressing, the gaps got bigger between the categories, but the gaps within the classes were not so big, so we got to see crazy battles on the entire track. The no.708 Glickenhaus was added 10 seconds to their first pit stop after Olivier Pla has caused a collision with Sebastien Buemi at the actual race start.

The track was getting drier, so the drivers, who were on the right tires, got the advantage. Antonio Felix da Costa was one of them as he had managed to set the quickest lap of the race in his no.38 JOTA. That also forced the drivers to change the tires as quickly as possible. More than that, the race got calmer. However, Roberto Merhi in the no.25 G-Drive Racing LMP2 car got stuck in the gravel, which triggered the enforcement of slow zones.

The battles kept going and we saw some entertaining action in all categories two hours into the race. After a difficult start of the race, Buemi took the lead in his no.8 Toyota after Conway went to the pits. However, Buemi made a contact with Lapierre and was not happy at all about it.

Two and a half hours since the start of the race, the rain came back on track, so the drivers had to be cautious. However, a couple of incidents happened – Takumi Aoki in the no.84 Association SRT41 spun and was stuck in the gravel. The LMP2 leader Anthony Davidson found his no.38 JOTA in the gravel as well. Slow zones appeared on both occasions.

The Sun came back to the track and the racing action seemed to have calmed down again. However, Marcos Gomez in the no.98 Aston Martin Racing LMGTE Am car had a big crash and went into the barrier – the Safety Car was deployed. It was the end of the race for the no.98 team. The driver left the car by himself.

After the track was cleaned and the barriers were repaired, the racing action was resumed. The LMP2 competitor ARC Bratislava faced some troubles as Miroslav Konopka had an incident and had to come back to the pits. However, he needed the assistance of marshals for that as slow zones were on track.

The rain came back to Circuit de la Sarthe again as a few drops were reported at Porsche curves. However, it had not made any significant impact. The on-track action continued with a lot of fascinating battles. The rain came back once again at the 5-hour mark.

As the rain became heavier and increased, there were also some incidents with “slow zones”. The first happened 5 hours into the race. First to be hit was the PR1 Motorsports Mathiasen Oreca (Aubry/Kelly/Trummer) from the LMP2 category. Then the Inception Racing Ferrari #71 (Iribe/Millroy/Barnicoat) and the AF Corse Ferrari #52 (Bird/Serra/Molina) collided.

After a slow zone, the next incidents occurred where Sophia Flörsch’s Richard Mille car crashed and hit the #74 Racing Team India Eurasia, which arrived at high speed, when returning to the track.

The rain became harder and therefore there were more accidents and spins. The #29 Team Nederland car crashed in Indianapolis and then the #26 G-Drive Racing car (Colapinto/De Vries/Rusinov) with Franco Colapinto, who had caused Flörsch’s accident.

There was no end to the confusion in the LMP2 class. The United Autosport USA car with #22 (Scherer/Albuquerque/Hanson) spun twice on one lap and lost the lead. This meant that Team WRT #41 (Deletraz/Kubica/Ye) took over the lead.

There were also accidents in the GTE-AM class. The Team Project 1 Porsche (Perfetti/Cairoli/Pera) with Egidio Perfetti at the wheel lost control of the car in the rain and crashed into the guard rail. The #33 Aston Martin (TF Sport; Keating/Pereira/Fraga) also braked and collided with the Porsche. That’s why the safety car came.

The next two slow zones were not long in coming. First, the #47 Cetilar Racing Ferrari (Lacorte/Serngagiotto/Fuoco) had gone too far into Virage du Tertre Rouge and slammed into a tire stubble. After that, the series of accidents also hit the hypercar category. The Alpine flew off in the first Mulsanne chicane and ended up in the gravel bed.

After some help from the safety vehicle and a pit stop, the Alpine was able to continue again. Several places were lost by the #36 and it was in P8, behind a couple of LMP2 cars.

The race then calmed down a bit and there was “only” one more accident in the GTE-AM class. This time it caught the Ferrari with the #55 in the second Indianapolis curve. Another slow zone was called.

The transition at midnight was overshadowed by a serious accident involving Rui Andrade (#25 G-Drive Racing). The Portuguese lost the rear between turns 1 and 2 and hit the wall hard as a result. The race was over for him and the team after the collision.

After midnight, there was the first change of leaders at the head of the field. The #7 Toyota pitted because Mike Conway took over the wheel. The #8 Toyota (Nakajima, Hartley, Buemi) thus took over the lead. The new lead car had stopped six laps earlier and therefore had a worse strategy for the course of the race.

The Slow Zones did not decrease after the 15-hour mark. The #55 Spirit of Race Ferrari rolled out and stood on the Mulsanne straight with no movement.

At almost half-past two in the morning CET there was a great duel between the #36 and the #708. The #36 Alpine passed in a great overtaking maneuver that went over several corners.

The second Ferrari in the GTE-AM class also stopped. Mikkel Jensen’s steaming car was seen in front of the Tertre Rouge. That led to the next slow zone.

Deep into the night, more cars went into the pits for driver changes but the dramatic events from the previous hours seemed to calm down as the weather was collaborating in favor.

The number #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing LMH pitted 20 minutes into the 14th hour in order to fix a “fueling problem.” Buemi, who was behind the wheel, wasn’t happy about the situation – however, he was reassured it would be the only stop in regards to the issue.

The number 79 GTE Pro Porsche Weather Tech Racing driven by Cooper MacNeil lost the rear and crashed hard into the barriers coming to the end of the lap, heavily damaging his vehicle. The driver needed to be checked by the medical professionals. At the same time, the number 7 Toyota pitted for a driver change, with Kobayashi taking the wheel and keeping the first spot.

The number 70 LMP2 of RealTeam racing driven by Esteban Garcia spun and went off the track, causing a yellow flag. He avoided the wall and safely rejoined the track after causing a brief yellow flag.

Minutes into the 12th hour, the already struggling #64 GTE Pro Corvette car was back in the garage, this time with clutch problems.

Halfway through the 12th hour, the #29 LMP2 of Racing Team Nederland went off-track at the Porsche curves and almost hit the wall. However, he saved it and re-joined the track. At the same time, the #22 also spun, but recovered and was again underway.

The #7 Toyota, who was leading the LMH class, had a big scare as he locked up through Indianapolis and went off-track, almost hitting the barrier. Because of this incident, they lost most of their gap to their sister car, the number 8.

With 20 minutes left in the 12th hour, the #49 LMP2 High Class Racing driven by Jan Magnussen was spun around by the #26 G-Drive at Arnage. While the #26 was able to continue (but later suffered a puncture from the incident), Magnussen was stuck and struggling to get in reverse.

The #7 Toyota later went into the pits and it was the #8 who managed to take the lead. However, the team decided to do a swap later on and allowed the #7 to re-take the top spot.

The #71 Ferrari lost his front left wheel coming out of the pit lane and had to make a full, slow-paced lap without it, making it to his box with significant damage.

With nine hours to go, at 0700 hours local time, the #709 Glickenhaus was imposed with a ten-second penalty for a pit stop infringement, with Toyota running an overall 1-2 with the #7 at first place.

Inter Europol Competition brought in the #34 car driven by Alex Brundle at the time, after contact in the previous lap led to minor damages, which were promptly fixed with a new set of tires and driver, in the form of Renger Van der Zande.

The #7 Toyota comes into the pits for a 19th pit stop, with a driver switch from Jose Maria Lopez to Mike Conway, and a new set of tires for the leading car. It was not all perfect for Toyota as it seemed like there was a problem with the left-rear wheelgun, delaying the pit exit.

The LMP2 category got intense as Jota and Panis Racing were in contention for the third place through the #28 and #65 cars, as the two were separated by a slim gap of 5 tenths of a second.

The #74 Racing Team India Eurasia car was penalized for causing a collision with the #34 Inter Europol Competition, which forced Alex Brundle to pit to fix the damages caused.

The battle for third in LMP2 intensified as Sean Gelael clung onto a struggling #28 Jota car and defended against an approaching Will Stevens in the #65 Panis Racing while encountering traffic, in a stellar defense from the former.

Stevens was eventually on the slower end of the battle as traffic slowed down the #65 Panis, to a gap of almost 2.8 seconds to Gelael, despite having the faster car of the two.

Ferrari-powered cars led both GTE categories as the #51 AF Corse led GTE-Pro with AF Corse also leading GTE-Am with the #83 car in a Ferrari sweep with a significant gap to rival teams.

Despite complaints from both Anders Fjordbach and Kevin Magnussen regarding the engine, Gibson, the engine supplier, advised the High Class Racing team to stay out. At the other end of the category, the second place #41 Team WRT comes into the pits for a driver change in the form of Robert Kubica.

The #83 AF Corse car, driven by Francois Perrodo was given a drive-through penalty for pit-lane speeding, opening up the possibility for rival teams to catch up to the AF Corse car in GTE-Am.

Kazuki Nakajima complained about the #8 Toyota, claiming that “something’s funny with the engine or gearbox”, a possible result from the damages sustained earlier. While Toyota acknowledged their knowledge of the issue, the team did not reveal anything else, with the sister car being brought in for a standard stop.

With 8 hours to go, there was a driver change for the GTE Pro class leader, as Alessandro Pier Guidi stepped in for James Calado in the #51 AF Corse. Yellow flags shortly followed as the #48 IDEC Sport locked up and spun into the run-off area.

The gap between the #708 Glickenhaus and the #36 Alpine started to progressively decrease as Glickenhaus improve their pace, matching that of the more experienced and successful Toyotas.

The battle for third in LMP2 resumed once again, as Tom Blomqvist in the #28 Jota chased Will Stevens in the #65 Panis Racing to see who will secure third in seven hours’ time, with the former finally overtaking Stevens for third.

The #72 Hub Auto Racing Porsche driven by Dries Vanthoor slowed down and stopped on the circuit, bringing out the yellow flag. Slow zones eventually followed to clear out any rubber debris on the circuit.

Once again, the #65 Panis Racing overtook the #28 Jota for third place in the LMP2 class, this time through the pits as opposed to an on-track overtake. In GTE-Am, the #33 TF Sport of Dylan Periera slowly started to chase the #83 AF Corse in an attempt to oust the Ferrari from first place.

The #708 Glickenhaus that was driven by Olivier Pla went up to fourth ahead of the Alpine, as the Glickenhaus team slowly see their cars pick up the pace and climb up positions.

Blomqvist made up for the lost time in the pits as the #28 Jota regains third place in an intense battle in LMP2 as Blomqvist goes ahead of Stevens in the #65 Panis Racing at Indianapolis.

As the #708 Glickenhaus went towards the pit lane, the #36 Alpine took the third position back as Olivier Pla started to struggle on track. There was a driver change in LMP2 for the #65 Panis Racing as James Allen takes over.

The #64 Corvette Racing car comes into the pits, to check the alternator and replace the clutch, in more bad news for Corvette Racing. Mike Conway then handed over the reins of the #7 Toyota to Kamui Kobayashi, still in the lead by a comfortable margin.

In added drama to an already intense race, the #8 Toyota of Sebastien Buemi slowed down on the track, bringing out the white flag. Shortly afterward, the car was reset and Buemi continued, one lap down.

The #52 AF Corse of Sam Bird suffered a massive tire blowout, bringing out the yellow flag, which was followed by a Slow Zone. Sean Gelael steps in the #28 Jota LMP2 car once more, taking over from Blomqvist, in a series of uneventful pit stops.

Frederic Makowiecki driving the #91 Porsche, made a blunder at the Porsche Curves with a mid-corner wobble that caused his car to touch the wall on the right-hand side, in a close call.

The #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing car suffered a tire blowout, the second of its kind in the past two hours, bringing out the white flag. In addition, both Toyotas seemed to be facing fuel-related issues, being unable to take up the full load.

Once again, the #708 Glickenhaus regained third place after the Alpine #36 came in for a pit stop, in a tight battle, being split by 34 seconds. In LMP2, Ferdinand Habsburg stepped in the #31 WRT car, maintaining a comfortable lead in the class.

The #36 Alpine took third place after the #708 Glickenhaus came in for fuel, in a seemingly neverending cycle for third place. The #388 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari went off at Dunlop, bringing out the yellow flag.

During the subsequent slow zone, the #8 Toyota pitted, with Brendon Hartley taking over from Sebastien Buemi. Joining Toyota in pitting was the #36 Alpine, keeping the #708 Glickenhaus at bay.

With five hours to go, the #29 of the LMP2 class nearly hit the wall in the first sector. Luckily, the only damage to the car was to the tire, and the number 29 had to pit. Meanwhile, Toyota #7 dived into the pit, and came a bit too long at the pit-lane entry, going onto the gravel.

There was a switch of positions in the LM GTE Pro class, with #92 overtaking #91 for P3. Plus. while the #91 was trying to keep up the pace, it went wide and lost time to the other Porsche.

It was game over for the #82 LMP2 car as the car needed to be stopped due to an engine issue. There was a problem for the #54 of the GTE Am class, which was going very slow before the last sector.

The leader of the LMP2 class, #31, pitted once again. Meanwhile, the #33 of the LM GTE Am class dived into the pits too for a change of driver.

The race director told the team there would be a full course yellow so that the marshalls could fix a cone on the track.

With a little bit more than four hours to go, the leader of the Hypercar class pitted to change tires, and at the same time, the #92 Porsche pitted too, still maintaining P3 in the class.

In the LM GTE Pro class, the battle for the lead saw the #51 Ferrari in P1, with the #63 behind with a gap of 40 seconds. Meanwhile, Toyota #8 pitted since the mechanics had to check something on the car.

Another yellow flag was brought out, this time by Ferrari #388. The car hit the wall in the first chicane on the long straight and lost some parts from the rear part of the car. As a result, the car was brought back to the pits and inside the garage.

As #51 and #63 of the LM GTE Pro class pitted, the gap between the two cars was down to 26 seconds with 3 hours and 20 minutes to go. One lap later, #7 pitted to swap drivers.

The battle for the lead of the LM GTE Pro class was still on even though the Ferrari picked up the pace and gained ten seconds, bringing the gap p to 36 seconds.

Toyota #8 seemed to have some issues as its stints were getting shorter and shorter, but on track, everything seemed fine. Moreover, Alpine #36 pitted to swap drivers with less than three hours to go.

In the LM GTE Am class, Aston Martin #33 pitted while leading the class. At the exit of the pit though, the new leader was the Ferrari #83.

In the first sector, Aston Martin #95 spun, and #85 had to go onto the gravel to avoid it. After a short yellow flag, the Aston Martin restarted without any damage, and no one had big issues.

For some time nothing much happened, and the cars kept covering kilometers and pitting whenever it was needed.

The battle for the win in the LMP2 class was very close, both cars of the Team WRT were close to each other with less than two hours to go, and only six seconds were separating them.

Car #21 driven by Ben Hanley started to go slow on track. Probably there was a problem with the fuel, but Hanley managed to bring it back to the pits, and after a few seconds he re-joined the track.

Car #41 of the LMP2 class managed to perform the overtake on car #31 and gained the lead of the class with 1 hour and 35 minutes to go.

The battle for P5 in the LMP2 class was close as well, with only 2 seconds separating #34 and #23. However, #34 pitted and #23 gained P5 in the standings.

#91 Porsche went wide at the penultimate chicane and lost the rear bumper, and left a lot of debris on the track in the first sector. As a result, the full course yellow was deployed and the marshalls started picking up the debris.

Nothing much happened in the last hour, the teams only performed some pit stops and tried to focus on bringing the cars to the checkered flag. Plus, car #28 might be able to attack #31 in the LMP2 class for P2 since only 14 seconds separate them.

Both Toyota #7 and #8 pitted, they went on track one ahead of the other to finish together and celebrate the win of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Meanwhile, Toyota #7 went on to win the 2021 24 Hours of Le Mans ahead of the #8. In the LMP2 class, #28 managed to win right at the finish line, and both Ferraris won in the LM GTE Pro and Am class.

HypercarToyota #7371
LMP2Team WRT#31363
LM GTE ProAF Corse#51345
LM GTE AmAF Corse#83339
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