The 24 Hours of Le Mans 2014 was held 14-15 June at the 38-turn, 8.469 mile Circuit de la Sarthe in France. The 82nd edition of the 24 Heures du Mans will live long in the memory. Action in all four categories went down to the wire; racing was compelling, rivalries intense, high profile retirements caused a regular rewriting of the script. The #2 Audi Sport Team Joest of Marcel Fässler (SUI), André Lotterer (DEU) and Benoît Tréluyer (FRA) in LM P1 took overall victory, their third success in four years.
In LM P2, #38 Jota Sport triumphed narrowly defeating nearest rival #46 Thiriet by TDS Racing, #51 AF Corse, comprising Giancarlo Fisichella in its driver line-up, took GTE Pro ahead of #73 Corvette Racing while #95 Aston Martin Racing won GTE Am.
All three of the leading manufacturers in LM P1 – Audi, Porsche and Toyota – led an epic 24-hour race at some stage. Toyota Racing #7 began in pole and held its lead for most of the first 14 hours of the race. However, an electronic issue related to the car’s wiring loom forced its retirement at 04:30 CEST on Sunday morning. Its sister car #8 Toyota Racing had already suffered misfortune in the early stages of the race colliding in treacherous rain on the Mulsanne Straight with #3 Audi Sport Team Joest. The latter was forced to retire from the race while the #8 driven by Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Nicolas Lapierre played catch-up, eventually finishing in third position.
Porsche enjoyed its moment at the front of the race as both Audis suffered turbocharger issues on Sunday morning. Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley and Mark Webber’s Porsche Team #20 led the two chasing Audi cars for a near two hours. Then problems struck. With a little under two hours remaining, #20 suffered a sudden engine issue and was forced to retire. Within minutes its sister car Porsche Team #14 also returned to the garage only reappearing shortly before the finish.
It was left to Audi to close out the race, its two cars had exchanged positions throughout Sunday morning. #2 Audi Sport Team Joest assumed the lead following #7 Toyota Racing’s exit from proceedings until suffering the turbocharger issue which set the team five laps behind. “We thought it was over and almost impossible to recover. The turbo is part of the car which never breaks,” admitted Lotterer. When the same fate hit #1 Audi a few hours later, #2 was able to gain ground and led the race for the final few hours finishing three laps ahead of its sister car. “It was a great course for the fans and for us too. It’s the first edition with the new car and a great victory for Audi,” said Fässler. It’s Audi’s 13th victory at Le Mans – they have all arrived since the year 2000.
For Tom Kristensen, nine-time winner and Rolex Testimonee, there was no tenth victory but given the issues Audi #2 had to deal with in the 72 hours before the race: constructing a new car, replacing a co-driver and starting seventh on the grid, second place is a commendable achievement. “The rain at the beginning of the race was a real challenge,” explained Kristensen. “Everyone can be very happy following an eventful race at a very high level across all categories. A lot of teams have produced a very spectacular race.” The event’s most successful ever driver celebrates his 13th podium finish in 18 appearances.
36 of the 54 starters completed the race, proving once again that finishing the world’s greatest and most renowned endurance race is a challenge in itself. Over 260,000 spectators attended the weekend, the highest figure for twenty years.
The 24 Heures du Mans is organised by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest. Rolex has been the Official Timepiece since 2001.
24 Hours of Le Mans 2014 – Photo Gallery (click image for larger picture)
1/#95/Aston Martin Racing/Aston Martin Vantage V8/334/3’55.798/208.1
2/#88/Proton Competition/Porsche 911 RSR/332/3’57.372/206.7
3/#61/AF Corse/Ferrari 458 Italia/331/3’57.373/206.7
24 Heures du Mans 2014 In Numbers
54 cars started – 38 cars were still running after 24 hours
Fastest lap: 3:22.567/242 km/h in lap 317 by #2 Audi, André Lotterer
Distance driven by winning LM P1 #2: 379 laps/ 5,165.39 km?
Average speed of winning LM P1 #2: 215.22 km/h
Laps led by winning LM P1 #2 Audi: 74
Winning margin in LM P1 class: 3 laps
Number of refuelling stops by winning team: 29
Number of leader changes in LM P1 class: 8
Full course cautions: 1 hour, 38 minutes
Overall podiums by Rolex Testimonee Tom Kristensen: 14
Audi have now won 13 times in 16 appearances
Youngest competitor: Matt McMurry (USA), 16 years, 6 months, 21 days (a record)
Oldest competitor: Howard Blank (USA), 65 years, 9 months, 18 days
Temperature at race start: 25°C
[Source: Rolex Motorsports; photos: Rolex / Stephen Cooper and Jad Sherif; Aston Martin; Audi; Porsche; Ferrari]