2019 24 Hours of Le Mans – Late López drama hands victory to sister Toyota

by James Eagles
#8 Toyota - World Endurance Championship - 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans

The LMP1-Hybrid #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing car of Fernando Alonso, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima claimed a second successive victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, as Toyota registered a 1-2 finish.

Nakajima, on board for the final hour, benefitted from two successive punctures for José María López in the sister #7 car as the clock hit 14:00 CEST – overturning the 1 minute 33 second gap the Argentine had enjoyed into a 16.9 second victory.

López was stuck in third gear, with the onboard camera showing a “Puncture” warning on the steering wheel, in between the two chicanes on the Mulsanne straight – ceding the lead to Nakajima at the Porsche Curves.

To further the misfortune, López then suffered another puncture on his outlap and required an extra stop.

Nakajima briefly surrendered the lead at his last pitstop, but regained a 25 second advantage once López needed one final refuelling stop.

López was then asked to “bring the car home” by his race engineer with 20 minutes remaining, ending any chance of a battle between the two Toyotas.

The result means that Alonso, Buemi and Nakajima claim the first World Endurance Championship superseason title; Nakajima becoming the first Japanese driver to win a top-level FIA championship.

Kazuki Nakajima - World Endurance Championship - 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans
Credit: Toyota Gazoo Racing

Alonso’s former McLaren F1 Team team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne guided the LMP1 privateer #11 SMP Racing to third place overall on his Le Mans debut, partnered by Russians Mikhail Aleshin and Vitaly Petrov.

Bruno Senna and Gustavo Menezes could do little else other than bring the #1 and #3 Rebellion Racing cars to flag in fourth and fifth place respectively.

Signatech Alpine finishes dominant LMP2 performance

#36 Signatech Alpine - World Endurance Championship - 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans
Credit: FIA WEC

Mirroring the feat of the LMP1 #8 Toyota, the #36 Signatech Alpine Matmut of Nicolas Lapierre, André Negrâo and Pierre Thiriet claimed its second successive class win.

Thiriet handed over to Lapierre with just under an hour remaining to allow the Frenchman to complete his fourth LMP2-class victory, a third with Signatech Alpine.

Behind the Michelin tyre-shod dominant victor, two Dunlop customers rounded out the LMP2 podium; the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing car, driven by Ho-Pin Tung, finishing a lap ahead of Loïc Duval in the #28 TDS Racing.

Following its problems in the first hour, Nicolas Jamin had to deal with rear suspension failure on his #30 Duqueine Engineering Oreca 07 car in the last hour – surrendering his fifth place finish and ending any chance of eating into the 10s gap to fourth-placed Phil Hansen in the #22 United Autosport entry.

Ferrari and Ford take shock victories in GTE Pro and Am

#71 AF Corse - World Endurance Championship - 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans
Credit: FIA WEC

Alessandro Pier Guidi claimed the honours for the #51 AF Corse Ferrari in GTE Pro, 49 seconds ahead of a charging Gianmaria Bruni in the #91 Porsche.

Ferrari’s victory was its first in the premier GTE category for five years – and AF Corse’s first in seven years – marking the 70th anniversary of the Italian marque’s first win at Le Mans in superb fashion.

Bruni finished a further 17.9s ahead of the sister #93 Porsche with 2015 overall winner Earl Bamber at the wheel.

The #51 AF Corse had completed two more pitstops than the chasing Porsches, affirming the pace it had shown throughout the 24 hours.

Ford ended its GT programme with three cars directly behind the podium finishers in fourth, fifth and sixth, led by Joey Hand in the #68 Ford USA entry.

#85 Keating Motorsports World Endurance Championship - 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans
Credit: Race Photography

Ben Keating and his eponymous team did not let late pressure from the #56 Team Project 1 Porsche prevent them from winning in GTE Am, the experienced Jeroen Bleekemolen building up at 44.9s gap to the second-placed car.

Ferrari also graced the podium in GTE Am, Rodrigo Baptista bringing his #84 JMW Motorsport-run 488 GTE to the flag in third.

2019 24 Hours of Le Mans – Provisional Classification

LMP1

1. #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing – Toyota TS050 – Hybrid – Mike Conway – Kamui Kobayashi – José María López

2. #8  Toyota Gazoo Racing – Toyota TS050 – Hybrid – Fernando Alonso – Sébastien Buemi – Kazuki Nakajima

3. #11 SMP Racing – BR Engineering BR1 – AER – Mikhail Aleshin – Vitaly Petrov – Stoffel Vandoorne

LMP2

1. #36 Signatech Alpine Matmut – Alpine A470 – Gibson – Nicolas Lapierre – André Negrâo – Pierre Thiriet

2. #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing – Oreca 07 – Gibson – Gabriel Aubry – Stéphane Richelmi – Ho-Pin Tung

3. #28 TDS Racing – Oreca 07 – Gibson – Loïc Duval – François Perrodo – Matthieu Vaxivière

GTE Pro

1. #51 AF Corse – Ferrari 488 GTE – James Calado– Alessandro Pier Guidi – Daniel Serra

2. #91 Porsche GT Team – Porsche 911 RSR – Gianmaria Bruni – Richard Leitz – Frédéric Makowiecki

3. #93 Porsche GT Team – Porsche 911 RSR – Earl Bamber– Patrick Pilet – Nick Tandy

GTE Am

1. #85 Keating Motorsports – Ford GT – Jeroen Bleekemolen  – Felipe Fraga – Ben Keating

2. #56 Team Project 1 – Porsche 911 RSR – Jörg Bergmeister – Patrick Lindsey – Egidio Perfetti

3. #84 JMW Motorsport – Ferrari 488 GTE – Rodrigo Baptista – Wei Lu – Jeff Segal

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