► The Le Mans 24 Hours in 2019
► Snapshots from the CAR team
► A fan’s eye view of the endurance race
Enjoy the party atmosphere from the 2019 Le Mans 24 Hours, with our photographic tour of the world’s most famous endurance motor race. Editor Ben Miller, deputy features editor James Taylor and staff writer Jake Groves did the pilgrimage to Le Mans this weekend – and here’s a quickfire diary update chronicling their race.
The no.8 Toyota car driven by Fernando Alonso, Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi won the LMP1 category, after a dramatic last-hour problem with the no.7 sister car driven by Jose Maria Lopez. The LMP2 class was won by the Signatech Alpine Matmut, LM GTE Pro was topped by AF Corse Ferrari, and the LM GTE Am class was won by Keating Motorsports Ford GT.
Look elsewhere if you want a detailed race report. This is our fan’s eye view of what happened to our trio of reporters.
1. The convoy down
CAR magazine’s Jake Groves, James Taylor and Ben Miller all head to Le Mans in three special cars. Ben’s in a Toyota Supra, James in a 911 GT3 RS and Jake is the closest thing Audi Sport has to a Le Mans entry in 2019 – in his long-term-test R8 Spyder.
2. Friday night Le Mans drivers parade – a Porsche sweet shop
Friday and it’s the drivers parade in Le Mans town centre: each team’s drivers proceed in open-top classic cars throwing tat (keyrings, pens, paper flags) to the throngs of enthusiastic crowds. There’s a real party atmosphere, with carnival drums accompanying the confetti and free-flowing beer stalls that many of the crowds seem to have been making the most of. Here Porsche’s works drivers throw 911-shaped sweets to the crowd, who are genuinely diving to the floor to scramble for them out of shot.
3. Le Mans ’66 preview: the new movie looms
On Friday evening the cinema in Le Mans town centre shows a 10-minute preview of the Le Mans ’66 film starring Matt Damon as Carol Shelby and Christian Bale as GT40 driver Ken Miles, telling the story of Ford’s Le Mans win (from what seems to be a particularly American standpoint – not sure the film will mention that the real-life GT40 was engineered in Slough). We’re not allowed to take any pictures but can tell you that the 10-minute clip we saw looked absolutely beautiful, bringing ’60s racing to life in vivid style – even if some of the driving sequences look less than realistic.
4. Alpine A110 S makes world debut at Le Mans 2019
Alpine’s boostier, gutsier A110 S gets a public airing to the Le Mans crowds. Power’s jumped by nearly 50bhp to 288bhp and the suspension’s been stiffened up. Sounds like a mouth-watering recipe, but a shame it’s an expensive one: €66,500 here in France, and £58,700 in the UK.
5. This is what 24 Aston Martin Supeggeras look like
Aston Martin’s paid homage to its 1959 win with 24 special DBS 59 cars, finished in the same curious but gorgeous shade of green as the original DBR1 racer. The cars are being handed over to their lucky new owners here at La Sarthe. Not a bad place to take delivery.
6. The scrum
Gridwalk is go, and there’s a real crush of crowds surrounding the cars and teams. Tense mechanics avoid eye contact with cameraphone-clutching fans, while the grandstands opposite conduct Mexican waves. The atmosphere is really ramping up.
7. Calm before the storm
Never stand when you can sit, never sit when you can lie down. While crowds of fans flock around in the gridwalk, mechanics conserve energy in the shade before everything kicks off. They have a long 24 hours ahead.
8. The 911 Turbo safety car: safety fast
If you’re going to be the pace car for LMP1 cars, you need to be speedy. This Porsche 911 Turbo does the job (yep, it’s a 991 not a 992, as are the 911 RSRs competing in the race – for now).
9. Toyota Celica cabrio trophy car
There’s more than one Toyota at the front of the grid. A retro Celica convertible is an unusual choice, but it was used to transport the Le Mans 24hrs trophy to the grid to display before the race starts.
10. Porsche 911 racing on home turf
There’s been a Porsche in every Le Mans 24hr race since 1951. This year was no exception. This special livery references the historic Brumos Racing team, a long-standing Porsche racing team of the past which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.
11. Aston Martin on pole
Aston Martin do a great job in qualifying to bag pole position in the GTE Pro class, with the ‘Dane Train’ Nicki Thiim starting the race.
12. And they’re off!
We’re racing! The deafening sound of 61 race engines reverberates around the grandstands as Princess Charlene of Monaco waves the field away. ‘With the national anthems ringing out, the trophy on display and the French air force fly-past, you can’t fail to be moved by the mystique and energy it all creates,’ she told interviewers.
13. Pagoda and Fastback – just two of the amazing cars parked up around La Sarthe
Spotted in the campsite: two ’60s stunners. The Mustang’s metallic blue paintwork looks great in the French sunshine.
14. Porsche scooters (rear-engined, obvs)
How the Porsche team drivers get around the Le Mans paddock: their own personal carbonfibre pit scooters.
15. GT cars nose to tail
After hours of racing the GTE Pro class is still nose-to-tail, with Corvette, Ferrari, Porsche, and Ford slugging it out. Truly this is a 24hr sprint race, with no quarter given.
16. Tired race fan
It’s 5am on Sunday morning and day breaks over the remaining race fans, some still watching, some still partying, and some flat-out asleep. And there’s still 10 hours of racing to go…
17. Baking boss
At Aston Martin’s campsite near the track, Paul Hollywood’s bespoke Vantage stuck out like a sore thumb with its race-spec bodykit and AMR vinyls. It also rubbed shoulders with a DB2/4, Vantage V550 and a DB7 among others.
18. Green machine
Over at Michelin’s hospitality area, Dendrobium’s D-1 electric supercar was on display. Not pictured is the near constant stream of motorsport fans trying to pick their chins up from shock. In order to get in, the roof opens on a hinge and the scissor doors lift open.
19. Historical appreciation
Four GT cars donned iconic racing liveries of Ford’s career as a sign-off of the brand’s recent GT successes. On top of that, this classic GT performed a parade lap, albeit much… much slower than the modern machines on the grid.
20. Vive la tricolore!
As race organisers amp up the excitement just before the 24h race begins, a series of stunt planes kick-start the theatrics flying in close formation over the starting grid.
21. Crew’s eye view
Aston’s No.97 Vantage GTE Pro mid pitstop from above. Endurance race pitstops are usually a couple of minutes long (instead of F1’s sub-10 second ones), with one member solely there to furiously scrub the windscreen for bugs.
22. Lighting up the night
This streak of lightning passing by the Ferris wheel is Toyota Gazoo Racing’s No.7 car, in the lead as the sun goes down and the atmosphere steps up a notch.
23. Wakey wakey!
Dawn at Tertre Rouge. As many fans are rolled up napping in sleeping bags on the grassy banking, there’s still plenty of noise to excite those still awake as the race thunders on into daylight again.
No, not really. Artist Nairone paints a Ligier Automotive prototype live. He’s said to be ‘obsessed with black and white’ admiring the contrasts between them, and has made works for Citroen, Adidas and Ferrero.