It was a 1-2 finish yet again for Toyota at Le Mans, with an Alpine rounding up the Hypercar podium.
While it was perhaps to be expected already, Toyota has nevertheless once again triumphed at the 89th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year. Coming home with yet another 1-2 finish, which brings the Japanese automaker’s consecutive win tally now up to four since 2018.
Interestingly however, it was not the traditional #8 Toyota (that already incidentally won three times prior already) which ended up on the top step of the podium this year. Instead, it was the #7 GR010 Hybrid of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez that came out on top to be the inaugural champion in the newly inaugurated Hypercar era of Le Mans.
Rather more excitingly too, it would have seemed in the initial stages of this iconic endurance event that an LMP2 car might be on course to occupy a spot on the overall podium at Le Mans. That is because there was high drama afoot during the opening laps of this initially wet race, with the #8 Toyota having spun out in the first few corners after being punted by the the #708 Glickenhaus car and the eventual third-place #36 Alpine also doing a little pirouette on its own at Indianapolis on lap 3.
Normal service though soon resumed about 2 hours into the 24 hour race, with the top 3 Hypercars once again back claiming their spots by the early afternoon. Anyhow, there was still quite a lot of some thrill to be had throughout the rest of the race, with blotches of rain and the growing dusk leading to more than a few yellow flags and safety cars to clean up some of the unfortunate crashes that occurred.
And in speaking of unfortunate events this year, the most painful of which this time round would have be the #41 Team WRT car that died on track on the final lap of the race, while leading the LMP2 class. This therefore handed over the eventual class victory (and maiden team win) to its #31 sister car, with the #28 Jota coming home second just under a second behind.
Now in rounding up the other class winners this year, the #51 Ferrari 488 GTE Evo of James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Come Ledogar nabbed the top spot in the GTE Pro category. Yet another prancing horse also clinched the top spot of the GTE Am too, with AF Corse trio of Francois Perrodo, Alessio Rovera and Niklas Nielsen piloting their #83 car to their maiden Le Mans victory.
Getting back to discussions way up front on the grid meanwhile and touching a little bit more on the future of Le Mans, reigning champion Toyota’s recent predictable successes may soon not be so definitive in the coming years. This is especially considering that 2022 will see the likes of Peugeot making its return to top-flight endurance racing after a decade-long sabbatical, with news of Porsche as well as Audi (and perhaps even BMW too) to also be in the fight in the new LeMans-Daytona Hypercar (LMDh) class come 2023.