The Editor: A-Z of Le Mans 24 Hours

26 takeaways from the 2024 race

I missed Le Mans’ 100th anniversary in 2023 so I was determined to make the race this year, which it turns out was a classic. Here are 26 things I learnt from Le Mans… in alphabetical order.

Always pack a brolly. The rain was promised but held off just long enough for you to feel confident of venturing out without protection. But come nightfall the heavens opened, precipitating a four-hour safety car and ultimately one of the most unpredictable races in living memory.

Back-to-back wins. Ferrari answered the critics who had suggested that last year’s victory was something of a stitch-up with the Italian team benefiting from a last-minute change to Balance of Performance and putting reigning champions Toyota at a disadvantage. No such quibbles this year.

Crowd control. Or lack of. With 329,000 spectators at the circuit over the weekend pinch points especially around Dunlop Bridge were a heaving mass with fan frustrations spilling over into scuffles. Must do better, ACO.

Dogs on track. A canine interloper sparked a flurry of social memes as well as a prolonged safety car. But it wasn’t the only dog on the circuit: Toyota gave its two teams nicknames based on the respective height of their drivers. Car No8 with beanpole Brendon Hartley (6ft) was ‘Doberman’; No7 with Nyck de Vries (5ft 5in) was ‘Chihuahua’.

Eco-friendly measures need to be meaningful. Banning tyre warmers before a race in the name of sustainability is laughable against the colossal consumption on show elsewhere. Go green by all means, but ditch the fig leaves.

Ferrari. It was the Italian team’s weekend, no doubt about that. The Scuderia now has 11 overall Le Mans wins placing it third behind Porsche (19) and Audi (13).

Garage 56’s absence meant no NASCARs, DeltaWings or hydrogen power. A pity.

Hypercar is officially a thing: 23 entrants from Ferrari, Cadillac, Porsche, BMW, Toyota, Isotta Fraschini, Lamborghini, Alpine and Peugeot. Overall there were 62 cars; 186 drivers and 41 outright leader changes over the race. Are we living through a golden age of endurance racing? Do we still need to ask?

Indianapolis. I spent much of Saturday evening making my way through the woods to the infield viewing spot here. The sight and sound of Hypercars braking heavily into the left-hander before going hard on the power in the gloom was thunderously hypnotic.

“I spent much of the evening making my way through the woods to Indianapolis”

Jota’s remarkable comeback. The Porsche customer team found itself without a second car after Callum Ilott’s practice crash. With no replacement chassis the team begged one from the Porsche works team (who sourced it from a show car), built the car up in 36 hours and used the airstrip for shakedown the night before the race.

Kristensen, Tom. I bumped into the great man on the Sunday morning. His verdict on the slippery conditions: “It’s your fault if you crash.” It’s easy to say that when you’re a nine-time Le Mans winner.

Leena Gade was a revelation on Eurosport and improved the coverage no end.

Media blackout – in the UK at least. With an estimated 100,000 British fans making the journey why is it that mainstream newspapers and the BBC don’t cover the race?

Night-time washout. For once you didn’t wake up wondering what you had missed in the small hours.

Open doors nearly killed Ferrari’s hopes when, with two hours to go, the right-hand door of Nicklas Nielsen’s 499P was left unlatched after a pitstop. The Dane tried to close it as he drove at speed, but was forced to pit from the lead with 1hr 43min left so a mechanic could click it shut.

Penske’s unfinished business remains unfinished – 61 years after the American legend’s first attempt at Le Mans victory.

Qualifying and Hyperpole take over two days to complete, but let’s face it, it’s probably one of the more pointless exercises in racing.

Results that reveal the 2024 edition to have been a race for the ages: Ferrari’s winning margin at the flag, having completed 311 laps, was just 14sec over the second-placed No7 Toyota and only 36sec over the sister Ferrari, which was third.

Steak haché for breakfast is underrated.

Toyota: full disclosure, I was a guest of Toyota and drove to La Sarthe in the brilliant GR Yaris, but even a neutral must have been moved to see the team fall short again. Endurance racing owes them much for keeping the top category alive when all other brands abandoned it. Its day will come again.

United Autosports played a blinder to win LMP2. Congratulations to the Wakefield team and to Brit driver, and one of racing’s good guys, Oliver Jarvis.

Valentino Rossi-mania was in the air until his WRT BMW LMGT3 crashed out in the night. The Doctor will be back.

Women-only team Iron Dames came a deserved fifth in LMGT3. If the queue snaking out of its merch store was anything to go by, it would appear to be a firm fan favourite.

X-rated. “What the f*** is he doing?” The reaction from Dries Vanthoor as Robert Kubica barged into him, putting him into the wall and ending the BMW’s highly anticipated return to Le Mans after just six-and-a-half hours. Kubica was given a 30-second drive-through penalty.

Yellow flags – lots of them…

Zinedine Zidane, the French football legend, dropped the tricolour flag to get the 92nd edition of Le Mans underway – and what a race it was.

Joe Dunn, editor
Follow Joe on Twitter @joedunn90

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