24 Hours of Le MansFIA WEC

2024 24 Hours of Le Mans: A Very Wet Overnight Report

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The #8 Toyota leads as the cars trudge around behind the safety car. Credit: Mike Widdowson / MJW Media

As the Circuit de la Sarthe begins to brighten in the early Sunday morning, Toyota Gazoo Racing lead the way in Hypercar in the 2024 24 Hours of Le Mans. The fourth round of the 2024 FIA World Endurance Championship had been a fantastically exciting race. However, with heavy rain falling from before the halfway point, the field has been behind the safety cars for well over three hours. All three safety cars have themselves had to pit for fuel.

For our report on the first six hours of the race, click here.

Race Report: 21:00 – 06:00 (GMT)

#5 Porsche Penske Motorsport racing in the rain before it got too heavy to continue. Credit: Mike Widdowson / MJW Media

As the rain cleared, the pit stop cycle kept the #83 AF Corse Ferrari in the lead of Hypercar and shuffled the #50 Ferrari AF Corse back into 2nd, followed by the #5 Porsche Penske Motorsport and #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing. At around the 6:30:00 mark, huge drama on the run down to the Mulsanne corner. The #83 Ferrari clipped the #15 BMW M Team WRT approaching full speed, spearing the BMW into the barrier and out of the race. The BMW, which had been remarkably fast in qualifying, became the third Hypercar retirement after both Alpine Endurance Team cars retired in the first 6 hours, and triggered the first safety car of the race.

After a 1.5 hour safety car period due to barrier repairs on the Mulsanne straight, the race went back to green flag conditions in stone cold and soaking wet conditions. Almost everyone in the remaining 58 car field dived into the pit lane to get wet tyres on except the #5 Porsche and the #311 Whelen Cadillac Racing car who stayed out on slicks. The #83 Ferrari romped past the #5 Porsche at 8:20:00 into the race, Porsche gambling on the track drying in time for him to get the advantage back. However, this never materialised, dropping the #5 Porsche out of the top 10.

The #311 Whelen Cadillac Racing car after finally pitting for wets. Credit: Mike Widdowson / MJW Media

For the contact with the #15 BMW, the #83 Ferrari has handed a 30 second stop and go penalty. Once served, it came back out in 6th, handing the lead to the #8 Toyota. At 8:42:00, Ahmed Al Harthy span his #46 Team WRT BMW under the Dunlop bridge. What looked like a relatively straightforward spin caused a huge water leak and a punctured radiator, bringing an end to a very competitive race for the car. At the start of the 10th hour, the track was dry and everyone was back onto slicks. The team that most benefited was Toyota, with #8 in the lead, #7 in 3rd, with the #6 Porsche somehow back up to 2nd, a great recovery from a difficult first third of the race.

In LMGT3, Porsche looked to be in control. Championship leading Manthey PureRxing led the way from Manthey EMA in second, both in Porsche 911 GT3 R LMGT3s. Ian James followed in 3rd in the Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage AMR LMGT3. The Iron Dames, who have endured a mixed race so far, follow the top 3 in 4th position.

LMGT3 leaders Manthey PureRxing pits in the hideous weather at Le Mans. Credit: Mike Widdowson / MJW Media

Back in Hypercar, Earl Bamber in the #2 Cadillac and Antonio Fuoco in the #50 Ferrari were battling for 4th in the 10th hour of the race, the pair of them swapping positions, both cars demonstrating immense pace that means they could be competing for good positions come the morning.

Drama in LMP2 for the Duqueine Team on its 112th lap. Coming down the Mulsanne straight, a huge technical failure caused a dramatic failure with flames visible through its air intake about the driver cockpit. At the head of the LMP2 pack, the #183 AF Corse car led the way, followed by Nolan Siegel in the #22 United Autosports car. Then the COOL Racing #37 car, with the 2023 winning #34 Inter Europol Competition car in 4th. The category, dropped from WEC for 2024 but continuing to compete at Le Mans, has provided some excellent racing.

Around 02:30 GMT, heavy rain started sweeping across the track, a much anticipated storm coming to fruition. Mike Widdowson, photographer at Le Mans, reported that the situation was indeed very bad. A second safety car was triggered at 02:44 GMT, which lasted significantly longer than the first. The track conditions were too treacherous for racing to continue. It would be impossible for the cars of different categories safely to negotiate their way round each other, never mind race aggressively.

Porsche Penske Motorsport and the wet tyres which are on every car behind the safety car. Credit: Javier Jimenez / DPPI

At 6am, the rain shows no sign of easing and the safety car shows no sign of coming in. Each of the three safety cars pitted themselves to refuel. Teams, drivers, and fans are settling in for a real test of endurance.

The next race update from The Checkered Flag will come at 12:00 GMT.

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Lifelong fan of motor sport, covering the FIA World Rallycross Championship and the FIA WEC, the shortest and longest races covered by the FIA!
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