Le Mans 24h: Toyota breaks curse, Alonso wins on debut

Toyota finally broke its long-standing Le Mans 24 Hours curse by claiming a dominant victory in the 86th running of the event with the #8 car shared by Fernando Alonso, Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi.

Le Mans 24h: Toyota breaks curse, Alonso wins on debut
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The two TS050 Hybrids were a class apart from their LMP1 rivals, with the battle for the win quickly boiling down to a two-way battle between the Toyotas.

It was nip and tuck between the #8 machine and the #7 of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez for the majority of the distance, with a rapid night stint by Alonso helping to mitigate the effects of a 60s stop-and-go penalty earned by Buemi for speeding in a slow zone.

Nakajima moved the #8 car back ahead at Arnage in the 16th hour, and from thereon it held the advantage, helped by a spin for Lopez at the Dunlop chicane with a little over three hours to go.

Kobayashi then dropped a lap behind the sister car when he missed his lap to pit for fuel, obliging him to cruise round for half a lap or so and earning the #7 car a pair of late penalties for exceeding the mandated 11-lap stint.

That meant that Nakajima crossed the finish line with two laps in hand over Kobayashi, earning Toyota its first-ever outright Le Mans victory after a host of recent near-misses, most famously in 2016.

Buemi said: “I can’t really describe it because when you look at the past, 2016, in the last lap. Kazuki was going to be in the car for the last few laps [again], so lots of emotions really. When I saw the car crossing the line I could not believe it really.”

Rebellion's pair of R-13 Gibsons emerged as the strongest privateer LMP1s, but both encountered a host of technical issues and finished 12 and 13 laps down respectively.

The #3 car shared by Gustavo Menezes, Thomas Laurent and Mathias Beche gained the upper hand over the sister car of the #1 machine of Neel Jani, Andre Lotterer and Bruno Senna, who lost ground in the closing hours with a door coming loose and penalties for exceeding stint length.

Manor's #5 Ginetta G60-LT-P1 was the only other LMP1 finisher, as both SMP Racing BR1s, the #10 DragonSpeed BR1, the #6 Ginetta and the #4 ByKolles ENSO CLM P1/01 all fell by the wayside.

Dominik Kraihamer ensured the ByKolles squad was the first official retirement of the race when he crashed lapping GTE Am traffic at the Porsche Curves, while Matevos Isaakyan in the #17 SMP BR1 spun into the barriers at the same part of the track some hours later.

The second BR1, which lost almost 50 laps early on with an electronics gremlin, stopped at the start of the final hour while Jenson Button was driving with engine trouble.

DragonSpeed's Gibson-powered customer BR1 suffered floor and alternator issues in the evening before an off for Ben Hanley at the Porsche Curves in Hour 20 ended the team's race.

LMP2: G-Drive cruises to victory

The #26 G-Drive Racing Oreca of Jean-Eric Vergne, Andrea Pizzitola and Romain Rusinov led virtually the whole race in the LMP2 category to give the TDS-run squad its first Le Mans victory.

After lining up third, Vergne lost places at the start and ran sixth prior to the first round of pitstops in the opening hour, but emerged in a lead that it kept for the rest of the race, marrying strong pace with no unscheduled pitstops or on-track incidents to take a two-lap lead over the chasing #36 Signatech-Alpine of Nicolas Lapierre, Andre Negrao and Pierre Thiriet. 

The #36 crew was unable to match the #26 car when two-time event winner Lapierre was not at the wheel and was never in the victory fight after it fell off the lead lap in the 11th hour, but enjoyed a largely clean run with the exception of a spin for Thiriet.

Any number of cars could have finished third, but it was the unheralded #39 Graff-SO24 Racing Oreca of Tristan Gommendy, Jonathan Hirschi and Vincent Capillaire that edged out the #28 TDS Racing Oreca of Loic Duval, Matthieu Vaxiviere and Francois Perrodo by 2.5 seconds in the final reckoning.

Duval was 34 seconds ahead when he made his final pitstop, but emerged 25s behind his compatriot and was unable to make up the deficit. That allowed Graff-SO24 to take a surprise podium, despite serving a one minute stop-and-go penalty in the 14th hour for speeding in a slow zone.

Behind the #28 TDS car, the #32 United Autosports entry featuring Juan Pablo Montoya finished best of the Ligiers in fifth after a series of late dramas befell the marque. 

Montoya outbraked himself and nosed into the tyres at Indianapolis in the sixth hour, but was still on course for fourth place with Hugo de Sadeleer and Will Owen before a puncture in the penultimate hour dropped it a lap behind the cars ahead.

Paul di Resta had been running fourth in the sister #22 United Autosports Ligier with four hours to go when he crashed heavily at the Porsche Curves and retired.

Another Ligier in podium contention, the Panis-Barthez Competition #23 of Will Stevens, Julien Canal and Timothe Buret, lost an hour in the pits shortly after di Resta's crash and eventually finished 11th. 

GTE Pro: Porsche claims 1-2

Porsche claimed GTE Pro class victory, with its pair of retro-themed, Manthey-run 911 RSRs claiming a 1-2 finish for the Weissach brand.

The early safety car broke up what had been an early three-way scrap for the lead, giving the 'Pink Pig'-themed #92 entry driven by Kevin Estre, Michael Christensen and Laurens Vanthoor an advantage of more than a minute over the #91 Rothmans-coloured Porsche and the best of the Fords, the #68 car.

From there, the #92 crew were never seriously threatened, and by the eight-hour mark enjoyed a lead of more than two minutes which they were able to maintain over the remaining distance until a final hour splash-and-dash for Christensen.

The battle for second between the #91 Porsche and the #68 Ford heated up in the morning hours, as Sebastien Bourdais hit out at Frederic Makowiecki for what he felt was unacceptable driving during a thrilling scrap in the 21st hour.

But their battle was not to last as Makowiecki got away after the next round of stops, helping to secure second for himself, Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz by a margin of 26 seconds ahead of the Ford shared by Bourdais, Dirk Muller and Joey Hand.

Ford's leading WEC-entered car, the #67 of Harry Tincknell, Andy Priaulx and Tony Kanaan, was a further minute behind in fourth, while Corvette got its leading entry home, the #63 of Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Mike Rockenfeller, a lapped fifth.

Ferrari's top finisher was the sixth-placed #52 car shared by Pipo Derani, Antonio Giovinazzi and Toni Vilander, two laps down, while Aston Martin's leading Vantage GTE finished ninth, five laps down.

BMW's pair of M8 GTEs both hit suspension troubles, with the #81 car finishing 11th after losing further time having to have its radiator changed. The sister #82 car retired when Alexander Sims crashed at the Porsche Curves in the early hours of the morning.

Also failing to finish were the #64 Corvette, which suffered engine trouble, and the #94 CORE autosport-run Porsche due to a terminal suspension problem. The #69 Ford also spent the final two hours of the race in the garage with an electrical issue.

GTE Am: Dempsey-Proton unstoppable

Honours in the GTE Am class went to the #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche crew of Julien Andlauer, Christian Ried and Matt Campbell, by a little under two minutes over the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari.

The #77 car assumed control of the class in the early hours, with Campbell and Andlauer able to build the team's lead over the course of Saturday evening and bronze-rated Ried keeping the gap to the chasing Ferraris relatively stable.

Leading the charge in the morning hours was the #85 Risi/Keating Ferrari, but any hopes of closing down the #77 Porsche ended when Ben Keating went off at Mulsanne corner in the 22nd hour.

That allowed the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari driven by Giancarlo Fisichella, Thomas Flohr and Francesco Castellacci to snatch the runner-up spot, with Keating and teammates Jeroen Bleekemolen and Luca Stolz securing the final place on the class podium.

Aston Martin's hopes of a class win ended when Paul Dalla Lana hit the barriers in the #98 Vantage shortly after one-third distance, while Dempsey-Proton's second car, the polesitting #88, was eliminated when Matteo Cairoli smacked the tyre wall at the Ford chicane in the morning hours.

2018 Le Mans 24 Hours results:

1 8 spain Fernando Alonso
japan Kazuki Nakajima
switzerland Sébastien Buemi
Toyota TS050 Hybrid LMP1 388
2 7 japan Kamui Kobayashi
united_kingdom Mike Conway
argentina Jose Maria Lopez
Toyota TS050 Hybrid LMP1 386
3 3 switzerland Mathias Beche
france Thomas Laurent
united_states Gustavo Menezes
Rebellion R13 LMP1 376
4 1 germany Andre Lotterer
brazil Bruno Senna
switzerland Neel Jani
Rebellion R13 LMP1 375
5 26 france Jean-Eric Vergne
russia Roman Rusinov
france Andrea Pizzitola
Oreca 07 LMP2 369
6 36 france Nicolas Lapierre
france Pierre Thiriet
brazil Andre Negrao
Alpine A470 LMP2 367
7 39 france Vincent Capillaire
france Tristan Gommendy
switzerland Jonathan Hirschi
Oreca 07 LMP2 366
8 28 france Loic Duval
france François Perrodo
france Matthieu Vaxiviere
Oreca 07 LMP2 366
9 32 colombia Juan Pablo Montoya
united_states  William Owen
switzerland Hugo De Sadeleer
Ligier JSP 217 LMP2 365
10 37 malaysia Nabil Jeffri
malaysia Weiron Tan
malaysia Jazeman Jaafar
Oreca 07 LMP2 361
11 31 venezuela Pastor Maldonado
france Nathanael Berthon
mexico Roberto Gonzalez
Oreca 07 LMP2 360
12 38 china Ho-Pin Tung
monaco Stéphane Richelmi
france Gabriel Aubry
Oreca 07 LMP2 356
13 29 netherlands Jan Lammers
netherlands Giedo van der Garde
netherlands Frits van Eerd
Dallara P217 LMP2 356
14 33 china David Cheng
united_states Nicholas Boulle
france Pierre Nicolet
Ligier JSP 217 LMP2 355
15 23 united_kingdom Will Stevens
france Julien Canal
france Timothé Buret
Ligier JSP 217 LMP2 352
16 35 russia Viktor Shaytar
france Norman Nato
united_kingdom Harrison Newey
Dallara P217 LMP2 345
17 92 denmark Michael Christensen
france Kevin Estre
belgium Laurens Vanthoor
Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE PRO 344
18 91 italy Gianmaria Bruni
austria Richard Lietz
france Frédéric Makowiecki
Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE PRO 343
19 68 france Sébastien Bourdais
united_states Joey Hand
germany Dirk Müller
20 67 united_kingdom Harry Tincknell
brazil Tony Kanaan
guernsey Andy Priaulx
21 63 denmark Jan Magnussen
spain Antonio Garcia
germany Mike Rockenfeller
Chevrolet Corvette C7R LMGTE PRO 342
22 47 brazil Felipe Nasr
italy Roberto Lacorte
italy Giorgio Sernagiotto
Dallara P217 LMP2 342
23 52 brazil Pipo Derani
finland Toni Vilander
italy Antonio Giovinazzi
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE PRO 341
24 66 germany Stefan Mücke
france Olivier Pla
united_states Billy Johnson
25 51 united_kingdom James Calado
italy Alessandro Pier Guidi
brazil Daniel Serra
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE PRO 339
26 95 denmark Marco Sorensen
denmark Nicki Thiim
united_kingdom Darren Turner
Aston Martin Vantage AMR LMGTE PRO 339
27 71 united_kingdom Sam Bird
italy Davide Rigon
spain Miguel Molina
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE PRO 338
28 77 germany Christian Ried
australia Matt Campbell
france  Julien Andlauer
Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE AM 335
29 54 italy Giancarlo Fisichella
italy Francesco Castellacci
switzerland Thomas Flohr
Ferrari 488 GTE LMGTE AM 335
30 93 united_kingdom Nick Tandy
france Patrick Pilet
new_zealand Earl Bamber
Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE PRO 334
31 85 netherlands Jeroen Bleekemolen
united_states Ben Keating
germany Luca Stolz
Ferrari 488 GTE LMGTE AM 334
32 99 united_states Patrick Long
united_states Tim Pappas
united_states Spencer Pumpelly
Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE AM 334
33 84 united_states Jeff Segal
united_kingdom Liam Griffin
united_states Cooper MacNeil
Ferrari 488 GTE LMGTE AM 332
34 80 france Erik Maris
denmark Christina Nielsen
italy Fabio Babini
Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE AM 332
35 50 france Thomas Dagoneau
france Romano Ricci
france Erwin Creed
Ligier JSP 217 LMP2 332
36 81 netherlands Nick Catsburg
germany Martin Tomczyk
austria Philipp Eng
37 56 germany Jörg Bergmeister
united_states Patrick Lindsey
norway Egidio Perfetti
Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE AM 332
38 61 ireland Matthew Griffin
singapore Mok Weng Sun
japan Keita Sawa
Ferrari 488 GTE LMGTE AM 332
39 97 united_kingdom Jonathan Adam
belgium Maxime Martin
united_kingdom Alex Lynn
Aston Martin Vantage AMR LMGTE PRO 327
40 70 monaco Olivier Beretta
japan Motoaki Ishikawa
italy  Eddie Cheever III
Ferrari 488 GTE LMGTE AM 324
41 69 australia Ryan Briscoe
new_zealand Scott Dixon
united_kingdom Richard Westbrook
42 5 france Leo Roussel
united_kingdom Michael Simpson
united_kingdom Charles Robertson
Ginetta G60-LT-P1 LMP1 289
43 86 united_kingdom Michael Wainwright
united_kingdom Benjamin Barker
australia Alex Davison
Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE AM 283
44 44 italy Andrea Bertolini
united_states Tracy Krohn
sweden Nic Jönsson
Ligier JSP 217 LMP2 334
Ret 11 united_kingdom Jenson Button
russia Vitaly Petrov
russia Mikhail Aleshin
BR Engineering BR1 LMP1 315
Ret  48 france Paul-Loup Chatin
mexico Memo Rojas
france Paul Lafargue
Oreca 07 LMP2 312
Ret  90 turkey Salih Yoluc
united_kingdom Euan Hankey
ireland Charles Eastwood
Aston Martin Vantage LMGTE AM 304
Ret  22 united_kingdom Paul di Resta
portugal Filipe Albuquerque
united_kingdom Philip Hanson
Ligier JSP 217 LMP2 288
Ret 64 switzerland Marcel Fassler
united_kingdom Oliver Gavin
united_states Tommy Milner
Chevrolet Corvette C7R LMGTE PRO 259
Ret  10 sweden Henrik Hedman
netherlands Renger van der Zande
united_kingdom Ben Hanley
BR Engineering BR1 LMP1 244
Ret  25 united_states Mark Patterson
korea_republic_of Tacksung Kim
netherlands Ate de Jong
Ligier JSP 217 LMP2 237
Ret 88 united_arab_emirates Khaled Al Qubaisi
italy Matteo Cairoli
italy Giorgio Roda
Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE AM 225
Ret  82 portugal Antonio Felix da Costa
brazil Augusto Farfus
united_kingdom Alexander Sims
Ret  40 mexico Jose Gutierrez
france Enzo Guibbert
australia James Allen
Oreca 07 LMP2 197
Ret 34 denmark David Heinemeier Hansson
united_states Ricky Taylor
france Côme Ledogar
Ligier JSP 217 LMP2 195
Ret  6 united_kingdom Oliver Turvey
united_kingdom Alex Brundle
united_kingdom Oliver Rowland
Ginetta G60-LT-P1 LMP1 137
Ret  17 france Stéphane Sarrazin
russia Matevos Isaakyan
russia Egor Orudzhev
BR Engineering BR1 LMP1 123
Ret  94 france Romain Dumas
germany Timo Bernhard
germany Sven Muller
Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE PRO 92
Ret  98 portugal Pedro Lamy
canada Paul Dalla Lana
austria Mathias Lauda
Aston Martin Vantage LMGTE AM 92
Ret  4 united_kingdom Oliver Webb
austria Dominik Kraihamer
france Tom Dillmann
ENSO CLM P1/01 LMP1 65
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