A race for the ages for Ferrari and Aston Martin in LMGTE Pro and Am
The 82nd 24 Hours of Le Mans is likely to be classed as an epic race, with multiple leaders, incidents and passes from the moment that Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso waved the French Tricoleur to when the chequered flag was shown at the finish.
Played out in mostly fine weather – apart from two short and sharp rain showers on Saturday afternoon, the results of which had a big effect on the outcome of certain competitors’ race - more than 263,000 spectators enjoyed this edition of the world’s most famous sports car race.
Reigning World GTE Champion driver Gianmaria Bruni, his team mates Toni Vilander and Giancarlo Fisichella were in a class of their own in the LMGTE Pro class, bringing the No.51 Ferrari 458 Italia home for their second class win in three years. The victory wasn’t achieved, however, without a huge battle for supremacy throughout the race, with the second-placed No.73 Corvette of Garcia-Magnussen-Taylor and the No.92 Porsche Team Manthey 911 RSR of Frédéric Makowiecki, Richard Lietz and Marco Holzer in third being among the contenders to push the Italian team hard. The victory extends Bruni and Vilander’s lead at the top of classification for the World Endurance Cup for GT Drivers.
The inter-class battles began right from the start of the race, and the Ferrari had to fight hard against the American muscle cars as well as Porsches at certain points and, primarily, the No.97 Aston Martin Vantage of Darren Turner, Stefan Mücke and Bruno Senna. The British and Italian marques fought relentlessly for the lead in class, and everyone was as disappointed as Aston Martin when a power steering hose leak caused the battle to be curtailed.
Well down the order then, but scoring valuable double championship points, was the No.97 Aston Martin and the No.91 Porsche Team Manthey 911 of Bergmeister-Pilet-Tandy which was delayed by fuel pressure issues. Of special note is the finish of the No.79 Prospeed Competition Porsche 911 GT3 RSR which was crashed in qualifying, injuring one of its drivers, and Jeroen Bleekemolen and Cooper MacNeil made a bit of modern history by competing with a two-man line up in the LMGTE Pro category instead of its planned crew of three in the LMGTE Am class.
With hearts in mouths for a large majority of the race were the front runners from the LMGTE Am class. It was undoubtedly a very emotional victory for the No.95 100% Danish-crewed Aston Martin Vantage V8 of Kristian Poulsen, David Heinemeier Hansson and Nicki Thiim – their win being poetic justice for the loss of their friend and team mate last year, Allan Simonsen, who tragically lost his life in the 2013 race.
“We have achieved what we were aiming for last year but didn't succeed,” commented Young Driver Team Owner Jan Struve. “We have now fulfilled it and we know that Allan has been cheering for us and smiling down on us and, of course, he has been in our thoughts.”
Two laps behind the Aston Martin in LMGTE Am was the No.88 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR of Klaus Bachler, Christian Ried and Khaled Al Qubaisi, followed home by the No.61 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia of Marco Cioci, Luis Perez Companc and Mirko Venturi. A notable retirement from this class was the pole-sitting No.81 AF Corse Ferrari of Sam Bird, Stephen Wyatt and Michele Rugolo which crashed out in the first of the two rain showers.
All reports can be found HERE.
CLICK HERE for championship positions after Round 3 of the FIA World Endurance Championship
Gianmaria Bruni, No.51 AF Corse Ferrari (LMGTE Pro): “It was a very good battle all the way through; very tough at the start battling with the Corvette and then again during the night with Aston Martin and into today (Sunday) with five hours to go. I had a good fight with Bruno [Senna in the No.97 Aston Martin] and took the lead, and then it changed around again – it was great racing. The result is fantastic and I’m very happy for my team mates and the team who did a great job. What we achieved today is really a team effort for everybody.”
Toni Vilander, No.51 AF Corse Ferrari (LMGTE Pro): “It’s a great result – we’ve been testing the car since the beginning of the season and the main objective is always Le Mans. You want the car to be fast everywhere but the main concern is this race. Last year was difficult for us here and we put our heads down, had a lot of meetings, comments from the drivers and a lot of engineers working on the car, so this is the best possible way to thank them. Also in the team there were guys from the Ferrari factory who stayed awake the whole race, wanting to follow every detail; they’ve been involved in F1 and everywhere in motorsport and to see their faces afterwards and the smiles, it shows how important it is. We are here to win and when we’re able to do it, it’s a very good feeling.”
Giancarlo Fisichella, No.51 AF Corse Ferrari (LMGTE Pro): “It means many things to win here but the most important is that it’s the most important and historic sports car race. I’m so proud of our win – we won in 2012 and this year, and were very close to winning in 2011. It’s a very important race for Ferrari and the team, AF Corse. They did a fantastic, brilliant job and I have to say thank you to all of them and also a big thank you to Gianmaria and Toni. It was all perfect.
“It was a very up and down race, with different tyre strategies being used at different tyres, and very tough. Aston Martin and Corvette were very quick but we were pushing hard and it went very well. The pit stops were great and we gained a few seconds there, the reliability of the car was fantastic with no issues at all, and it was another great victory.”
David Heinemeier Hansson, No.95 Aston Martin Vantage: “The key to this race is reliability. We've not pushed very hard but had a decent pace and made sure nothing bad happened. We had a two-lap lead because we've not been in the pits and that's how you win Le Mans.
“To win is magical. It's my third time here. The first time I tasted leading, the second time I finished second and finally I've stood on the top of the podium.”
Nicki Thiim, No.95 Aston Martin Vantage: “I came here and I didn't know what to expect. Now I’m sitting here as a Le Mans winner and it is an amazing feeling. It's been a fantastic week… everything has built up gradually to a huge climax.
“It’s the biggest endurance race in the world and the pinnacle of my sport. To be here winning with Aston Martin with such a big history at Le Mans is perfect.”