What a great race it was! The 24 Hours of Le Mans proved its self once again as one of the best races of the year. The 2014's edition saw an epic battle between Porsche, Toyota and Audi. Each one the three giant constructors looked like a winner at some point of the race.
After Ferrari president Luca Di Montezemolo gave the drivers the chequered flag last year, it was Fernando Alonso's turn to wave the French flag at the start of this year's race. This strengthens the possibility that Ferrari might consider entering Le Mans with a LMP1 prototype in the near future. But this is just speculation since Ferrari is already involved in Le Mans racing in the LM GTE Pro category. With that said, back to the race!
During the first part of the race, Toyota built a solid lead thanks to Audi's and Porsche's troubles but especially thanks to its powerful TS040 Hybrid racer which was clearly the fastest among the three.
Toyota dominated the race throughout the night but then came the time for the Japanese automaker to have its share of troubles. Audi took the lead of the 24 Hours race after overtaking the leading Toyota which stopped at Arnage. Porsche was following close behind but with a clearly slower car.
Nakajima in leading #7 Toyota stopped at Arnage - passed by Treluyer in #2 Audi #LM24— 24hours_Live (@24hours_Live) June 15, 2014
The dawn lights brought us a new leader as Nakajima's Toyota TS040 Hybrid #7 officially retired.
#7 Toyota now an official retirement #LM24— 24hours_Live (@24hours_Live) June 15, 2014
With the leading Toyota out of the race, things were looking good again for Tom Kristensen in the Audi #1 who might be running for his thenth Le Mans win! Until...
The AUDI #1 rejoins after 17min 36sec, Lucas DI GRASSI replaces Tom KRISTENSEN. #LM24— 24hours_Live (@24hours_Live) June 15, 2014
Within four hours from the arrival, the Audi #1 driven by T. Kristensen had to go back to the pit for a turbo change which cost the team more than 17 minutes. Meanwhile, the Porsche 919 Hybrid number #20 took the lead for a very short period of time, followed by the Audi R18 E-tron number #2 which was on average 5 seconds faster.
Bernhard in #20 Porsche is on lead lap. #LM24— 24hours_Live (@24hours_Live) June 15, 2014
The Porsche seemed to have a really strong chance of finishing ahead since the more efficient 919 Hybrid required less pit stops. That was the case until, Mark's Porsche was hit by technical problems and had to enter the pits once again. It was the end of the race for the Porsche #20.
Davidson in Toyota #8 is 2 laps behind Webber in pit-bound #20 so might have shot at podium place #LM24— 24hours_Live (@24hours_Live) June 15, 2014
Webber climbs out of #20 Porsche. It looks like it might be over. #LM24— 24hours_Live (@24hours_Live) June 15, 2014
During that time, the Audi #2 took the lead followed by the Audi #1 and the Porsche #14. At this stage, it looked like nothing would stop Audi from claiming its 13th Le Mans victory. Sadly, the number #14 Porsche had to join the pits too, allowing the Toyota #8 to come back from far behind and occupy the 3rd spot.
The two Audi's then cruised together to the finishing line offering Audi its thirteenth overall Le Mans win and making it once step closer to Porsche all time record of 16 wins. Toyota once again failed to win after showing some real potential and the Swiss Rebellion racing team's Toyota R-One belonging to the LMP1-L sub category finished fourth.
Team Jota Sport won the LMP2 category's race with the Nissan powered Zytek Z11SN which crossed the line with O. TURVEY at the wheel.
In LM GTE Gro, it was Team AF Corse' Ferrari 458 Italia which crossed the line in 1st place with G. BRUNI at the wheel while ASTON MARTIN RACING's V8 Vantage completed the race at the top of the LM GTE Am category with K. Poulsen at the wheel.
It was a great race from Audi. But we're already excited about next year's race because we are sure that Porsche and Toyota won't accept their defeat. Next year, Nissan will be joining the show which means that we might be witnessing another golden era of Le Mans racing.
Full results can be found here.