Shocking twist in final minutes of Le Mans 24 Hours

Weekend Racing Wrap

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A stunning conclusion to the Le Mans 24 Hours saw the lead change hand just minutes before the chequered flag was shown.

World Endurance Championship

Race 3 of 9: Le Mans 24 Hours

It seemed Toyota’s long-awaited first victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans was finally going to become reality until, with around six minutes to go, Kazuki Nakajima suddenly lost power at the wheel of his TS050.

Porsche, whose number two car had stalked the leading Toyota after losing the lead to it early in proceedings, therefore inherited a shock victory for Neel Jani, Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas. As Nakajima was unable to manage complete his final tour in within the maximum time allowed he along with team mates Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi were not classified.

While Porsche sportingly hailed its LMP1 rivals, the fight for GTE Pro honours ended in acrimony. Both the winning Ford GT and the second-placed Ferrari 488 were given time penalties after both teams lodged protests against each other for infractions during the race.

Ford kept their victory, which coincided with their return to the category 50 years after their first win in the race, despite penalties for speeding in a slow zone and having a faulty wheel sensor. Ferrari were penalised and fined after failing to obey a black-and-orange flag which was shown because one of its light panels was not working.

British Touring Car Championship

Races 13, 14 and 15 of 30: Croft

Video not available yet

Colin Turkington led Jason Plato in a one-two for Subaru in race one but the Team Dynamics Honda pair struggled, both finishing out of the top ten. Rob Collard snatched victory in the second race after Turkington and Plato collided.

The rain arrived from race three and Ashley Sutton passed pole sitter Sam Tordoff after a late Safety Car period. However Tordoff extended his lead in the championship as the series reached its halfway point.


Races 12 and 13 of 29: Hidden Valley

Michael Caruso (Nissan) and Shane van Gisbergen (Holden) shared victories in two incident-packed Supercars races at Hidden Valley in Darwin. Van Gisbergen now holds fifth in a closely-fought championship, 73 points behind leader Jamie Whincup.

Also last weekend

Chaos at the start of the first GP2 race
Antonio Giovinazzi took a rare double victory on the Baku City Circuit despite making a dreadful start from pole position in the feature race. This provoked a first-corner pile-up which eliminated the likes of Alex Lynn, Pierre Gasly and championship leader Norman Nato, and also caused the first of many Safety Car periods.

Giovinazzi re-took the lead from Raffaele Marciello during a brief window of green flag running but a lengthy Safety Car period while a single car was recovered meant the race stopped three laps shy of the planned 29. Sergey Sirotkin demoted Marciello to third after out-dragging him to the finishing line on the final lap.

From eighth on the grid in the sprint event Giovinazzi moved to the front after a series of spectacularly chaotic Safety Car restarts. Nobuharu Matsushita, who took the lead from pole sitter Daniel De Jong at the start, was criticised for his tactics approaching the Safety Car line which triggered several crashes. He was later taken off by Raffaele Marciello and then banned from competing in the next round.

That put Giovinazzi’s team mate Pierre Gasly in the lead and on course for his first victory in any category since 2013. But Giovinazzi had other ideas, and despite a malfunctioning DRS passed his team mate for a superb win.

The drivers’ championship remains wide open: Points leader Artem Markelov is on 54, but any one of ten different drivers could be leading after the next race.

The Formula One race on the same track was comfortably won by Nico Rosberg:

Over to you

IndyCar returns to picturesque Road America
What racing action did you watch last weekend? Let us know in the comments.

Next weekend IndyCar heads to Road America for the first major open-wheeled race on the majestic road course since 2007. Meanwhile Formula V8 3.5 heads to Paul Ricard after seeing six different drivers win its opening six races. And NASCAR will make one of its two visits to a road course with its weekend at the Sonoma circuit in California.

Fans of street racing can enjoy the DTM and European F3 championships at the Norisring street circuit and the World Touring Car Championship on Portugal’s dramatic Vila Real course.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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31 comments on “Shocking twist in final minutes of Le Mans 24 Hours”

  1. I feel gutted for Toyota. They didn’t only lose the win, but also a podium.
    By the way, are these LMP cars so ineffective at slipstreaming each other? If there would be a F1 race at Le Mans the cars would probably swap positions several times per lap due to the length of the straights, but these LMPs couldn’t really get close to each other. Is it because the LMP cars have less air resistance?

    1. ColdFly F1 (@)
      20th June 2016, 11:18

      Missing the win; extremely hard. But that’s what happened.
      I cannot understand (the rule for) not being classified; they did finish (drive more than 24hrs) and did more laps than #2.
      Not sure how this rule ‘exceeding permitted max lap time works’. Many other cars which needed lengthy repairs did the same, with the only difference that for them it was in the pit.

      1. I don’t get that either, they completed the race and even with the slow last lap should have had a podium. I always thought that laps covered was the deciding factor when deciding the results of endurance races.

      2. FlyingLobster27
        20th June 2016, 12:23

        Quick correction @coldfly: the #5 did the same number of laps as the #2.
        The 6-minute lap time rule applies only to the last lap, either timing line to timing line, or pit exit to timing line (so repair time wouldn’t count). My guess is that the rule is there to avoid a silly form of stubbornness from teams who just don’t want to call retirement, which could unduly delay post-race procedures. Granted, this wasn’t Toyota’s attitude, but that’s what I think the rule aims to eliminate by drawing a line at what’s deemed a reasonable slow lap time.
        And while it is therefore technically authorised to “wait” for the chequered flag in your garage (as Toyota did at Spa), it is not permitted to do so by stopping on track.

        1. ColdFly F1 (@)
          20th June 2016, 12:55

          Thanks FlyingLobster27,
          That would make (a bit of) sense. Also then the leading car could wait on the final lap to see if their sister car can still overtake for position.
          But the consequences in this case are ridiculous.

          P: #2 – I referred to the car coming 2nd (the other Toyota), NOT the car with ‘number 2’ (Porsche)

      3. I think the rule is quite new – I don’t remember it from the late 90’s when I was in the team garage. It is probably to stop cars with multi-lap leads going dangerously slowly to allow team mates to catch up for that team shot as they pass the flag.

        1. FlyingLobster27
          21st June 2016, 10:09

          @ians Let’s say you want a photogenic finish with two cars. You instruct the one ahead on the road, so that there’s less than half a lap in time between them, to slow. As lap times are easily under 4 minutes, you can do this on the last lap and both cars will have done the tour in under 6. I don’t know if that’s very clear, but what I mean is that it doesn’t avoid photo op finishes.

          1. It does, however, substantially reduce the amount of aggravation setting up photo finishes can cause other cars. One year, a team boss whose team was leading by a country mile spent ages setting up a photo finish on track, which seriously got in the way of cars who were still racing each other. 6 minutes (except in cases of force majuere, which would be applicable if there was a Safety Car on the last lap, for example) was deemed enough time to avoid the worst excesses of the photo finish phenomenon. At least now, it is necessary for teams doing photo finishes to either set them up while moving at a reasonable speed, or else send everything to be photographed out of the pitlane on the final lap (either of which minimises disruption to those not in the photo).

            This was the reason the rule was set up, though I believe the reasons Fer no.65 stated were important to the manner in which the rule was framed (other methods of stopping the ploy were available – this one happens to work well for Le Mans because of its multi-purpose nature).

      4. @coldfly @geemac @ians If I’m not mistaken, the reason that rule was put in place was to force teams to actually finish the race. The winner at Le Mans used to be decided by the car that covered the longest distance in 24 hours, but that meant that a team could win without actually finishing. So they created that rule so that only the cars that finish the race in a certain laptime are classified.

        Also, some teams used to wait just before the finishing line with broken cars only to cross it when the checkered flag was shown. This new requirement doesn’t allow that.

    2. @f1infigures I am possibly not the best person to ask, but I believe the reason for the lack of slipstreaming is because of the deployment of hybrid. These cars accelerate insanely quickly, but they max out very early on the straight, because they only use hybrid (which accounts for over 50% of the entire power of the car in some cases) for a small section of it. With LMP2 getting a decent BHP boost next year, it will make overtaking those incredibly difficult!

      1. @craig-o Thanks!
        It makes sense to use the hybrid power at the beginning of the straights (just like KERS in F1) as the extra power is most useful under acceleration. Nevertheless, even with reduced power the tow should enable the second car to run a bit faster on those straights. Perhaps the slipstream is only used to save energy, which may be more important than track position in a 24-hour race.

        1. @f1infigures It certainly does count, because they all have a restricted amount of fuel which they can use across the race. Also I guess that they are geared to top out without too much slipstream.

    3. maybe they need DRS to help the slipstream, that was F1’s solution

  2. Free KFC for everyone..

  3. Gasly got handed a victory and was outclassed by Giovinazzi.

    1. It should also be mentioned that after the first lap Giovanazzi was dead last due to engine issues, in fact he was showing as retired. Astonishing weekend by him.

  4. The winner of the 3rd BTCC race was Ashley Sutton… Not Ashley Cooper

  5. Toyota heartbreak was beyond belief! Still can’t get my head around it. It was 23 hours and 55 minutes of perfection but like they say, the race is for 24 hours!

    I thoroughly enjoyed Le Mans and it was one of the classics. Was really exhausted and sleep deprived after watching it for 19 hours and hence decided the download and watch the F1 race which quickly turned out to be my sleeping pill! :)

    1. Aren’t you tired after winning Le Mans? ;)

  6. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
    20th June 2016, 11:32

    I hope Davidson doesn’t call time on his racing career after that – I would certainly be tempted if I was him. He was simply awesome in consistent, pace management earlier this morning. As in Spa, Ant’s efforts could, should, have secured victory for Toyota. During his night stint he closed the gap to the #6 by more than forty seconds, and in his final stint he caught and passed the same Porsche that previously failed to catch him; even with new tyres. Compared with Dumas’ anonymity, and Jani’s below usual pace, Davidson really deserved to win.

    I just sense he won’t fancy returning to the site of such raw heartbrake, and as the 2014 WEC champion, Le Mans is the only sportscar accolade missing from his CV. Toyota could also be tempted to pull the plug on the programme. But WEC needs a manufacturer of the quality of Toyota, and a driver of the quality of Davidson shouldn’t be lost to a comfy TV career.

    1. I don’t think either driver or team would make an emotional over-reaction like that. It’s a bit more grown-up than F1.
      It’s a pity for the championship as that Toyota looks a winner, if not on outright pace then on efficiency. It conked out in a strong position at Spa as well. But it’s a long way back from not scoring in two races when one’s double-points.

  7. Until yesterday seeing JR Hildebrand losing the Indy 500 win by crashing in the last corner was the saddest thing I have ever seen in motorsport (fatal accidents aside). But for Toyota to lose the Le Mans 24 hours like that really does take the biscuit, I can’t even begin to imagine how devastated the whole team must be. Both the 6 and the 5 cars looked really strong and the race came to them beautifully, to lose it within minutes of the finish is just plain cruel. I hope the TS050 doesn’t fall off the pace over the off season the way its predecessor did after winning the 2014 WEC title so that they have a chance to try right this wrong next year.

  8. Alex McFarlane
    20th June 2016, 12:44

    Has it been established what went wrong for the #5 Toyota?

    1. I have read possibly the turbocharger going and shutting down the entire system, but I am sure a full post-mortem will come out at some point.

  9. Tony Mansell
    20th June 2016, 13:45

    Glad people enjoyed Le mans. Cant see it myself, dipped in, 3 guys on the same lap, fro memory they guy in 5th was 8 laps down.. Id love to love it but the cars are quiet, they look like they’re on rails and the canopies mean there is no connection with the driver. All the things people complain about in f1. Still ill give it another go. Hope springs…

    1. Josh (@joshdejager)
      20th June 2016, 17:07

      If you’ve ever been to the race, you’re hooked for life. Once you arrive at the Circuit de la Sarthe you can just feel the history, and yet at the same time you’re part of history in the making. The atmosphere at the track is just unbelievable, everybody’s in a good mood. Also it’s cheap compared to an F1 race (€78 for the whole week with amazing access to the village/part of the paddock and all grandstands apart from during the race). The true sportsmanship between the teams and drivers is amazing too. Sure, Porsche is super happy the Toyota broke down, but at the same time everybody’s feels extremely sorry for them. The biggest rivals on track are the ones who congratulate each other first, and being sincere with it.

      Le Mans is just special. It’s hard to describe. But I can see you’re point and understand where you’re coming from.

      To quote Robert Walsh:
      “It’s always a little different at Le Mans. For starters, fans are still treated like fans, not as walking wallets like at Grand Prix. You also get more racing in 24 hours than over an entire Grand Prix season. You get it without feeling like you might as well just turn up, throw your wallet over the security fence and go home.”

      I’d recommend reading the entire thing here if you’re interested:
      And while you’re at it, this is why Le Mans is extremely relevant to road technology:

      1. @joshdejager, it’s a shame that the author of that blog has mistakenly ascribed a number of advances to sportscars at Le Mans when they were developed independently.

        With regards to anti-lock brakes, mechanically operated anti-lock braking systems were in limited use in road cars in the 1960’s (predating the time he claims they were introduced at Le Mans), such as the Jensen FF, having been adapted from systems that had been developed for the aviation industry and for the heavy goods industry (where they’d been in use from the 1950’s). Even if you then manipulate the claim to refer to just electronically operated systems, then Chrysler still had production models at the beginning of the 1970’s that had electronically operated anti-lock brakes, again developed prior to when he is claiming they were launched at Le Mans.

        With regards to aerodynamics, Lancia was already undertaking wind tunnel testing on the road going Aprilia, launched in 1937, significantly pre-dating the use of wind tunnel testing by Jaguar in the 1950’s.

        As for championing biofuel development at Le Mans, I can only assume that the author of that piece has never been to Brazil given that ethanol biofuels have been in standard use there since the 1970’s, with many Brazilian automotive subsidiaries having pioneered the use of biofuels decades before Le Mans (where most biofuels, since they featured alcohol derived compounds, were banned until relatively recently).

        With regards to hybrid technology, the relative “trickle down” effect is, at best, questionable – Pascal Vasselon stated in the past that the hybrid drive unit on the Prius was much more advanced than the system that had been fitted to the TS030.

    2. I don’t see it either. I see the “highlights” video and I don’t feel like I have missed a thing at all.

      Sure it’s cheap and there are a lot of race cars going around, but you can get that from going to a racing day at a local track.

  10. Although my hope for Porsche victory faded as the race progressed when I saw Toyota loosing power on penultimate lap I wasn’t happy. Life isn’t fair sometimes and this is one of best examples.

  11. Here in North America both ends of the TV coverage were changed to the US OPEN for golf and that meant we did not see the first 2 1/2 hours of the 24 and we didnt see the final 90 minutes either.

    This decision was hard to imagine let alone actually happening to us life long followers of the 24 Hours du LeMans.

    Shame on Fox Sports One !

  12. Matt (@castlebravo)
    21st June 2016, 20:34

    I will be at Road America this weekend for the return of IndyCar. One of my favorite tracks. I have always loved going there to see this driver who regularly brings his Benetton B197 (ex-Berger) to the vintage events. While Indy is not my favorite series, I will enjoy the hell out of watching these cars hit the track in anger.

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