The 72nd 24 Hours of Le Mans (French: 72e 24 Heures du Mans) was a non-championship 24 hour automobile endurance race for Le Mans Prototype and Grand Touring cars held from 12 to 13 June at the Circuit de la Sarthe close to Le Mans, France. It was the 72nd edition of the 24 Hour race, as organised by the automotive group, the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) since 1923. A test day was held eight weeks prior to the race on 25 April. Approximately 200,000 people attended the race.
The Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx R8 of Jamie Davies, Johnny Herbert and Guy Smith started from pole position after Herbert set the overall fastest lap time in the fourth qualifying session. The car led for much of the first 18 hours until a rear suspension problem created handling difficulties and was corrected in the garage. It gave the lead to the Audi Sport Japan Team Goh car of Seiji Ara, Rinaldo Capello and Tom Kristensen and although it caught fire during a pit stop, Ara held off the faster Herbert for the remainder of the race to win by 41.354 seconds. It was Ara's first Le Mans win, Capello's second and Kristensen's sixth. Kristensen equalled Jacky Ickx's all-time record of six overall victories and was the first driver to win the 24-hour race five times in a row. This was the fourth overall victory for Audi since its first in the 2000 edition. The Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx car finished in second and the Champion Racing trio of JJ Lehto, Emanuele Pirro and Marco Werner recovered from a crash in the second hour to complete the overall podium finishers in third place.
The Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) category was won by the Intersport Racing Lola B2K/40 car of William Bennie, Clint Field and Rick Sutherland, eight laps ahead of the sole other finisher in the class, the Rachel Welter WR LM2001 vehicle of Yojiro Terada, Patrice Roussel and Olivier Porta. A Chevrolet Corvette C5-R driven by Olivier Beretta, Oliver Gavin and Jan Magnussen won the Le Mans Grand Touring Sport (LMGTS) class and the sister car of Ron Fellows, Max Papis and Johnny O'Connell was eleven laps behind in second place. Prodrive's Ferrari 550-GTS Maranello of Colin McRae, Rickard Rydell and Darren Turner completed the category podium in third position. Porsches took the first six places in the Le Mans Grand Touring (LMGT) category with the White Lighting Racing Porsche 911 GT3-RS of Jörg Bergmeister, Patrick Long and Sascha Maassen taking the class win for the second consecutive year.
The 2004 24 Hours of Le Mans was the 72nd edition of the race and took place on the 8.482 mi (13.650 km) Circuit de la Sarthe road racing track close to Le Mans, France from 12 to 13 June. The race was first held in 1923 after the automotive journalist Charles Faroux, the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) general secretary Georges Durand and the industrialist Emile Coquile agreed to hold a test of vehicle reliability and durability. The 24 Hours of Le Mans is considered one of the world's most prestigious motor races and is part of the Triple Crown of Motorsport.
In March 2003, the ACO announced changes to the Le Mans Prototype (LMP) classes that first took effect from the 2004 race. The former Le Mans Grand Touring Prototype and Le Mans Prototype 900 (LMP900) categories were merged and renamed Le Mans Prototype 1 (LMP1) and was limited solely to manufacturers. Since the Le Mans Prototype 675 (LMP675) category had no car capable of challenging for the overall victory, the ACO designated it a lower class and renamed it Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2). LMP900 and LMP675 cars built in compliance with the ACO technical regulations for the LMP and LMGTP categories could enter until 31 December 2005. Skid blocks were made 10 mm (0.39 in) thicker and the air restrictor size was reduced by five per cent. Teams in LMP1 and LMP2 could choose between an open or a closed cockpit. The maximum weight of LMP2 vehicles was established at 750 kg (1,650 lb) and 900 kg (2,000 lb) for LMP1 cars. Engine displacement for normally aspirated engines set at 3,400 cc (210 cu in), turbocharged engines were limited to 2,000 cc (120 cu in) and engine displacement for diesel power units was restricted to 5,500 cc (340 cu in).
After a series of airborne accidents in sports car racing, such as an accident involving a Porsche 911 GT1 at the 1998 Petit Le Mans and the Mercedes-Benz CLR at the 1999 Le Mans race, the ACO altered the bottom of the LMP1 and LMP2 cars to lower the amount of downforce produced outside of their wheelbase and a reduction in rear overhang coupled with an increase in front overhang for less pitch sensitivity to minimise the possibility of such a crash occurring. The rear wing was moved forward and shortened from 400 mm (40 cm) to 300 mm (30 cm). A 20 mm (2.0 cm) plank was added to the underside of all LMP cars to force an increase in ride height and reduce the effectiveness of underfloor aerodynamics.
The ACO received 77 applications (40 for the LMP classes and 37 for the Grand Touring (GT) categories) by the deadline for entries on 11 February 2004. It granted 50 invitations to the 24 Hours of Le Mans and entries were divided between the LMP1, LMP2, Le Mans Grand Touring Sports (LMGTS) and Le Mans Grand Touring (LMGT) categories.
Automatic entries were earned by teams which won their class in the 2003 24 Hours of Le Mans. Teams which won Le Mans-based series and events such as the 2003 Petit Le Mans, the 2003 1000 km of Le Mans and the 2003 American Le Mans Series (ALMS) were also invited. Some second-place finishers were also granted automatic entries in certain series and races. Additionally, entries were also granted for the winners and runners-up in the GT and N-GT categories of the 2003 FIA GT Championship. Had the entry of the 2003 Petit Le Mans category winner been the same as the 2003 American Le Mans Series class champion, the second automatic entry would have been awarded to another team in that category under an agreement with the ACO and the ALMS. As entries were pre-selected to teams, teams were not allowed to change their cars from the previous year to the next. They were permitted to change category provided that they did not change the make of car and the ACO granted official permission for the switch.
On 20 November 2003, the ACO published its initial list of automatic invitations. Team Bentley, Infineon Team Joest, Pescarolo Sport (after changing engine suppliers from Peugeot to Judd), RN Motorsport, Dyson Racing and Alex Job Racing did not accept their automatic entries; their places were taken by Champion Racing, Audi Sport Japan Team Goh and Lister Racing due to its performance in the GT category during the 2003 FIA GT Championship.
|1st in the 24 Hours of Le Mans||Team Bentley||Noël del Bello Racing||Veloqx Prodrive Racing||Alex Job Racing|
|2nd in the 24 Hours of Le Mans||Team Bentley||RN Motorsports||Corvette Racing||Orbit Racing|
|1st in the Petit Le Mans||Champion Racing||Intersport Racing||Prodrive||Alex Job Racing|
|1st in the American Le Mans Series||Infineon Team Joest||Dyson Racing||Corvette Racing||Risi Competizione|
|1st in the FIA GT Championship||BMS Scuderia Italia||Freisinger Motorsport|
|2nd in the FIA GT Championship||BMS Scuderia Italia||JMB Racing|
|1st in the 1000 km of Le Mans||Audi Sport Japan Team Goh||Courage Compétition||Care Racing||Cirtek Motorsport|
|2nd in the 1000 km of Le Mans||Pescarolo Sport||Intersport Racing||Care Racing||Freisinger Motorsport|
The seven-member selection committee of the ACO announced the full 50-car entry list for Le Mans, plus six reserves on 25 March 2004. Following the publication of entries, several teams withdrew their entries. Arena Motorsport withdrew its Dome S101 car, promoting the No. 4 Taurus Sports Racing Lola B2K/10-Judd vehicle. Thierry Perrier's Porsche 911 GT3-RS was allowed to race after one of pre-selected BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550-GTS Maranello's was withdrawn, because the team did not have enough time to make the car compliant with ACO regulations and it wanted to focus on the 2004 FIA GT Championship. Later, a Ferrari 360 Modena GTC fielded by Risi Competizione was replaced by XL Racing's Ferrari in the list of entries. Konrad Motorsport and Welter Racing were subsequently granted the fourth and fifth reserve entries and XL Racing withdrew its Ferrari. A second Racing for Holland Dome car was promoted to give the team two LMP1 entries.
On 21 April, the Car Racing team confirmed that its No. 67 Ferrari 550 was withdrawn due to financial problems from a lack of sponsorship and its place in the LMGT category was taken by a second Chamberlain-Synergy Motorsport-entered TVR Tuscan 400R. Force One Racing pulled its Pagani Zonda from the entry list after a heavy crash at the ACI Vallelunga Circuit in Italy halted the car's development. This promoted Seikel Motorsport's No. 84 Porsche into the race. The No. 36 Gerard Welter car replaced the Spinnaker Clan Des Team car when the latter team withdrew on 1 June due to a lack of preparation and testing. Courage Compétition and its satellite operation Epsilon Sport were required by officials to withdraw one C65 chassis per team because an engine supply agreement with Mecachrome was terminated and both outfits sourced replacement engines from JPX.
A mandatory pre-Le Mans test day split into two daytime sessions of four hours each was held at the circuit on 25 April, involving all 50 entries and two of the six reserve cars. Audi set the pace of the day with a 3 minutes, 32.613 seconds lap from Allan McNish's No. 8 Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx R8 with six minutes to go, followed by Johnny Herbert's No. 88 Audi in second. Champion Racing was third with a lap from Marco Werner and Tom Kristensen was fourth for Team Goh. The fastest two non-Audis were the fifth-placed David Brabham in the No. 22 Zytek 04S car and Hiroki Kato's No. 9 Kondo Racing Dome S101 vehicle in sixth position. Max Papis led the LMGTS class in the No. 63 Corvette Racing C5-R with a lap of 3 minutes, 49.982 seconds set in the final minutes of the second session ahead of the sister No. 63 Corvette of Oliver Gavin and the No. 69 Larbre Compétition Ferrari of Christophe Bouchut. Rounding out the top five in the category were the Prodrive Ferrari cars of Tomá? Enge and Rickard Rydell. Jörg Bergmeister's No. 90 White Lightning Porsche 911 GT3-RSR led LMGT with a 4 minutes, 5.975 seconds lap, followed by Marc Lieb's No. 87 Orbit Racing car, which was sidelined for 2+1⁄2 hours with a broken steering rack after a crash against a guardrail at Tertre Rouge corner. A seal failure that mixed oil and diesel in the Taurus Lola and leaked oil on the Mulsanne Straight and a crash for Noël del Bello Racing's entry at Mulsanne Corner led to further stoppages during testing.
There were eight hours of qualifying divided into four two-hour sessions available to all the entrants on 9 and 10 June. During the sessions, all entrants were required to set a time within 110 per cent of the fastest lap established by the fastest vehicle in each of the four categories to qualify for the race. Audi led early on and Herbert's No. 88 car recorded a fastest lap of 3 minutes, 34.907 seconds on the final lap of the session. Kristensen's Team Goh Audi was more than two seconds slower in second and he was followed by McNish in the No. 8 car in third position. Jan Lammers' Racing for Holland Dome car was the fastest non-Audi in fourth place. The No. 2 Champion Audi of JJ Lehto took fifth, Soheil Ayari's No. 18 Pescarolo C60 car took sixth and Brabham put the No. 22 Zytek 04S vehicle in seventh. Pierre Kaffer damaged the No. 8 Audi Sport UK car after an error put him off the track at the first Mulsanne Chicane. With a lap of 3 minutes, 46.020 seconds, Jean-Marc Gounon's No. 31 Courage C65 vehicle led in LMP2, more than eleven seconds ahead of its sister No. 35 Epsilon Sport car and the No. 24 Rachel Welter WR LM2001 entry. The No. 64 Corvette C5-R of Olivier Beretta set the early pace in LMGTS and his co-driver Gavin bettered his effort to establish the class' best lap at 3 minutes, 54.359 seconds. Peter Kox for Prodrive was the fastest Ferrari in second and Ron Fellows' No. 63 Corvette followed in third place. The second Prodrive Ferrari was fourth courtesy of a lap from rally driver Colin McRae. In LMGT, Bergmeister's No. 90 White Lightning Porsche led the class with a lap of 4 minutes, 9.679 seconds, ahead of Stéphane Daoudi in the No. 70 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena GTC.
Teams used the opening minutes of the second qualifying session to fine tune their cars and record their fastest lap times in lower ambient and track temperatures. Herbert could not improve the No. 88 Audi Sport UK R8's best lap due to a minor gear selection fault and slower traffic. McNish's sister No. 8 car bettered it with a time of 3 minutes, 34.683 seconds. No other driver improved their times over the rest of the session, enabling the No. 8 Audi to take provisional pole position from the No. 88 vehicle. Kristensen's Team Goh car fell to third after damaging its front splitter in a collision with a Chevrolet Corvette C5-R at Arnage corner, as Werner moved Champion's entry to fourth and complete an Audi sweep of the first four positions. Sébastien Bourdais drove the No. 17 Pescarolo C60 car to fifth despite a fuel pressure problem and a minor crash by co-driver Nicolas Minassian. The No. 15 Racing for Holland Dome car improved to sixth and the No. 6 Rollcentre Racing Dallara SP1 vehicle took seventh. Courage No. 31 C65's lap time in LMP2 moved the car to eleventh overall, ahead of the clutch-stricken No. 15 Racing for Holland car. It remained eleven seconds in front of the Epsilon Sport team. Corvette Racing continued to lead in LMGTS with Gavin's No. 64 C5-R improving its best lap to a 3 minutes, 52.158 seconds. He was more than two seconds quicker than Fellows' No. 63 entry and a further second faster than Enge's No. 66 Prodrive Ferrari, who collided with a barrier at Indianapolis corner. Bergmesiter improved the No. 90 White Lighting Porsche's best lap in LMGT to a 4 minutes, 9.679 seconds and went three seconds ahead of the JMB Ferrari.
Rain showers on 10 June removed rubber laid on the track by cars and lap times in the third session were expect were expected to be slower than before. However, ambient and track temperatures increased, allowing drivers to better their laps from the previous day. McNish went fastest overall before his Audi Sport UK teammate Herbert recorded the fastest lap at 3 minutes, 33.024 seconds on a new gurney flap with five minutes to go. Brabham in the No. 22 Zytek 04S car moved from provisional seventh to third by getting his first clear lap of the weekend. Rinaldo Capello made a minor improvement to the Team Goh Audi's quickest lap though the team fell to fourth and the Champion car to fifth. Bourdais set a lap which kept the No. 17 Pescarolo C60 vehicle in sixth and Katoh was the fastest of the Dome S101 cars in seventh. LMP2 continued to be paced by Gounon's No. 31 Courage C65 car and the Paul Belmondo Racing team took second place in the category. In LMGTS, Rydell's No. 65 Prodrive Ferrari moved to the front of the category and he maintained it until Gavin's lap of 3 minutes, 49.750 in the No. 64 Corvette reset the class lap record ten minutes later. The second Corvette driven by Johnny O'Connell was third and the other Prodrive Ferrari of Kox dropped to fourth. The LMGT category saw Sascha Maassen's No. 90 White Lightning Porsche improve its lap to a 4 minutes, 7.394 seconds. Mike Rockenfeller's No. 87 Orbit car came within less than two seconds behind in second and Stéphane Ortelli's No. 85 Freisinger Motorsport entry finished the session in third.
In the final qualifying session, Herbert in the No. 88 Audi set a new fastest time of 3 minutes, 32.838 seconds eight minutes in. He held the top of the time charts to take his first pole position at Le Mans and the fourth of his motor racing career. McNish improved the No. 8 Audi's time to join Herbert on the grid's front row after missing much of the session due to a lack of power caused by a failed fuel injector that necessitated an engine change. Brabham could not improve on his lap from the third session and began from third. Kristensen bettered Team Goh Audi's best time but remained in fourth, as Bourdais took fifth in the No. 17 Pescarolo C60 car. Werner's Champion Audi went faster for sixth after a front shock absorber repair, and Katoh took seventh. Gounon earned the Courage team pole position in the LMP2 category by improving the No. 31 car's best lap to a 3 minutes, 41.126 seconds and going 12th-fastest overall. The Paul Belmondo Racing team was ten seconds slower for second in its class. After the No. 66 Prodrive Ferrari was damaged in an accident in the Porsche Curves, Enge took the top spot from Gavin's No. 64 Corvette in LMGTS with a 3 minutes, 49.438 seconds lap with ten minutes to go in the session. An improvement by O'Connell's No. 63 Corvette qualified it in third. White Lighting's third session lap secured the team the LMGT category pole position, with Jaime Melo's JMB Ferrari and Rockenfeller's Orbit Porsche second and third in class.
Pole position winners in each class are indicated in bold. The fastest time set by each entry is denoted in gray.
|1||LMP1||88||Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx||Audi R8||3:34.907||3:32:838||--||1|
|2||LMP1||8||Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx||Audi R8||3:34.683||3:33.233||+0.385||2|
|3||LMP1||22||Zytek Engineering Ltd.||Zytek 04S||3:41.181||3:33.923||+1.085||3|
|4||LMP1||5||Audi Sport Japan Team Goh||Audi R8||3:35.169||3:34.038||+1.200||4|
|5||LMP1||17||Pescarolo Sport||Pescarolo C60||3:36.801||3:34.252||+1.414||5|
|6||LMP1||2||Champion Racing||Audi R8||3:35.892||3:34.927||+2.091||6|
|7||LMP1||9||Kondo Racing||Dome S101||3:42.143||3:36.285||+3.447||7|
|8||LMP1||15||Racing for Holland||Dome S101||3:37.323||3:36.353||+3.515||8|
|9||LMP1||6||Rollcentre Racing||Dallara SP1||3:39.260||3:42.278||+6.422||9|
|10||LMP1||16||Racing for Holland||Dome S101||3:43.122||3:40.261||+7.453||10|
|11||LMP1||18||Pescarolo Sport||Pescarolo C60||3:40.399||3:42.764||+7.561||11|
|12||LMP2||31||Courage Compétition||Courage C65||3:42.592||3:41.126||+8.288||12|
|13||LMP1||25||Ray Mallock Ltd.||MG-Lola EX257||3:48.147||3:42.298||+8.410||13|
|14||LMP1||14||Team Nasamax||Nasamax DM139||3:49.779||3:42.429||+9.591||14|
|15||LMP1||20||Lister Racing||Lister Storm LMP||3:49.542||3:43.760||+11.877||15|
|16||LMP1||27||Intersport Racing||Lola B01/60||3:52.862||3:48.670||+14.742||16|
|17||LMGTS||66||Prodrive Racing||Ferrari 550-GTS Maranello||3:56.493||3:49.438||+17.600||17|
|18||LMGTS||64||Corvette Racing||Chevrolet Corvette C5-R||3:52.158||3:49.750||+17.912||18|
|19||LMP1||4||Taurus Sports Racing||Lola B2K/10||3:55.780||3:50.703||+18.865||19|
|20||LMGTS||63||Corvette Racing||Chevrolet Corvette C5-R||3:54.612||3:51.378||+19.540||20|
|21||LMGTS||65||Prodrive Racing||Ferrari 550-GTS Maranello||3:58.493||3:51.755||+19.817||21|
|22||LMP2||37||Paul Belmondo Racing||Courage C65||6:14.788||3:51.862||+19.955||22|
|23||LMP1||29||Noël del Bello Racing||Reynard 2KQ||3:59.257||3:53.640||+20.733||23|
|24||LMGTS||69||Larbre Compétition||Ferrari 550-GTS Maranello||3:56.920||3:55.500||+23.593||24|
|25||LMP1||11||Panoz Motor Sports||Panoz GTP||4:06.515||3:57.816||+24.978||25|
|26||LMP2||35||Epsilon Sport||Courage C65||3:57.850||3:58.831||+25.993||26|
|27||LMGTS||62||Barron Connor Racing||Ferrari 575-GTC||4:00.714||4:05.437||+26.876||27|
|28||LMP2||32||Intersport Racing||Lola B2K/40||4:08.824||4:01.679||+28.841||28|
|29||LMP2||36||Gerard Welter||WR LM2004||4:08.708||4:05.163||+32.325||29|
|30||LMP2||24||Rachel Welter||WR LM2001||4:05.852||4:10.264||+33.014||30|
|31||LMGTS||61||Barron Connor Racing||Ferrari 575-GTC||4:06.375||N/A||+33.537||31|
|32||LMGT||90||White Lightning Racing||Porsche 911 GT3-RSR||4:09.679||4:07.394||+34.546||32|
|33||LMGT||70||JMB Racing||Ferrari 360 Modena GTC||4:11.025||4:08.484||+35.636||33|
|34||LMGT||84||Orbit Racing||Porsche 911 GT3-RSR||4:14.111||4:09.079||+36.241||34|
|35||LMGT||85||Freisinger Motorsport||Porsche 911 GT3-RSR||4:12.237||4:10.011||+37.173||35|
|36||LMGT||83||Seikel Motorsport||Porsche 911 GT3-RS||4:14.189||4:11.490||+38.652||36|
|37||LMGT||77||ChoroQ Racing Team||Porsche 911 GT3-RSR||4:17.246||4:12.949||+40.111||37|
|38||LMGT||75||Thierry Perrier||Porsche 911 GT3-R||4:13.009||4:19.943||+40.171||38|
|39||LMGT||89||Chamberlain-Synergy Motorsport||TVR Tuscan T400R||4:16.184||4:13.368||+40.530||39|
|40||LMGT||84||Seikel Motorsport||Porsche 911 GT3-RS||4:23.613||4:13.943||+41.055||40|
|41||LMP1||10||Taurus Sports Racing||Lola B2K/10||4:14.380||10:49.177||+41.497||41|
|42||LMGT||72||Luc Alphand Aventures||Porsche 911 GT3-RS||4:18.735||4:14.785||+41.952||42|
|43||LMGT||92||Cirtek Motorsport||Ferrari 360 Modena GTC||4:20.522||4:18.768||+44.940||43|
|44||LMGT||86||Freisinger Motorsport||Porsche 911 GT3-RSR||4:18.973||4:28.136||+45.145||44|
|45||LMGT||96||Chamberlain-Synergy Motorsport||TVR Tuscan T400R||4:19.980||4:27.642||+46.153||45|
|46||LMGT||81||The Racer's Group||Porsche 911 GT3-RSR||4:20.010||4:21.319||+46.183||46|
|47||LMGT||78||PK Sport Ltd.||Porsche 911 GT3-RS||4:21.277||4:23.109||+47.439||47|
|48||LMGT||80||Morgan Works Race Team||Morgan Aero 8R||4:30.355||4:24.080||+51.248||48|
The drivers took to the track at 09:00 Central European Summer Time (UTC+02:00) for a 45-minute warm-up session in clear weather. Teams used the session as a final opportunity to check the setup and reliability of their cars. Lehto's No. 2 Champion Audi set the fastest time with a 3 minutes, 36.078 seconds. The two Audi Sport UK R8s were second and third with the No. 8 narrowly ahead of the No. 88. Bourdais's No. 17 Pescarolo C60 car was fourth. The Team Goh Audi placed fifth, Lammers' Racing for Holland Dome car and the No. 22 Zytek 04S vehicle were sixth and seventh. The fastest LMP2 lap was recorded by Intersport Racing's Lola car at 4 minutes, 5.032 seconds. The No. 63 Corvette was the quickest vehicle in the LMGTS category and JMB's No. 70 Ferrari led in LMGT. Although the session passed without a major incident, Bourdais' engine cover came off his Pescarolo C60 car, and several drivers ran into the gravel traps beside the track.
The weather at the start was overcast with an air temperature of 25 °C (77 °F) and a track temperature of 28 °C (82 °F). There were 200,000 people in attendance. The French tricolour was waved by François Fillon, the Minister of National Education, Higher Education and Research, at 16:00 local time to start the race, led by the starting pole sitter Jamie Davies. A total of 48 cars planned to start but the No. 10 Lola B2K/10 and the No. 61 Barron Connor Racing Ferrari 575-GTC began from the pit lane due to a change of clutch and engine, respectively. The No. 14 Team Nasamax DM139 was extricated from the track too late after a fuel consumption test but the car joined the grid. Davies held off a challenge from his teammate McNish into the Dunlop Curve to lead the opening laps. The other two Audis of Lehto and Capello and Lammers' Racing for Holland Dome entry passed Andy Wallace's Zytek car to demote it from third to sixth. The top five cars in LMGTS were nose-to-tail with Kox leading and a throttle sensor problem for Lammers on the Mulsanne Straight on lap four dropped him to 24th. Capello spun into a gravel trap at the Dunlop Curves four laps later and he rejoined behind Lammers. Before the first hour ended a change of electronic control unit for Capello's Team Goh Audi dropped him off the lead lap as Gavin's Corvette took the lead of LMGTS. His teammate Fellows crashed against a tyre barrier at Arnage corner and was forced to enter the pit lane. Repairs to the front of the No. 63 car lost it five laps and O'Connell relieved Fellows.
On 1 hour and 52 minutes, McNish and Lehto's cars lost control when they drove onto a patch of oil laid on the track at the entrance to the Porsche Curves, spun across a gravel trap and crashed into a tyre barrier in unison, temporarily knocking McNish unconscious. Both cars sustained heavy damage and recovery from trackside equipment allowed McNish and Lehto to return to the garage for extensive repairs. Soon after vacating the No. 8 car in the garage McNish collapsed and two doctors examined him. He was taken to the circuit's medical centre suffering from a sore knee and concussion. Doctors ruled him unfit for the rest of the event. The safety cars were deployed to slow the race as marshals worked to clear debris from the track. As the safety cars were recalled Brabham's Zytek vehicle sustained bodywork damage from picking up a puncture and John Field crashed the No. 27 Intersport Lola car at the second Mulsanne Chicane. Later in the second hour, the Champion and Team Goh Audi entries returned to the track outside of the top 40 overall positions. Ryo Michigami's No. 9 Kondo Dome vehicle had a transmission failure on the final third of the lap and he drove to the garage for repairs. He fell to fifth, behind the No. 18 Pescarolo C60 car of Érik Comas and Katsutomo Kaneishi's No. 15 Racing for Holland car. The attrition rate promoted Sam Hancock's No. 31 Courage C65 car to sixth overall.
At the front of the field, Smith's No. 88 Audi R8 led the Team Goh entry of Seiji Ara by one lap. Enge set the fastest lap in LMGTS to a 3 minutes, 53.327 seconds to be 17 seconds behind the class-leading No. 64 Corvette of Jan Magnussen. Lammers' Racing for Holland Dome vehicle overtook Benoît Tréluyer's No 17 Pescarolo C60 car for third overall until a fuel pump failed and needed replacing. Hancock's No. 31 Courage C65 car ceded the lead in LMP2 to the sister Epsilon Sport entry, after a faulty rear gearbox selection mechanism required attention from mechanics. Repairs took 20 minutes and dropped the car down the race order. Not long after Robert Hearn lost control of Freisinger's No. 86 Porsche, and damaged the rear of his car against the inside barrier at the exit to the Karting Esses. Hearn was unable to get the Porsche moving again and retired. After relieving Smith, Herbert responded to Ara's faster pace, stabilising the gap at the front of the field, which increased after Ara ran into a gravel trap on the Mulsanne Straight. McRae's No. 66 Prodrive Ferrari was second in LMGTS until he spun at a Mulsanne Chicane after moving onto a dirty section of track to allow a faster LMP car past. His clutch began to slip afterward and Prodrive changed the device; the resulting pit stop dropped McRae eight laps behind Gavin's LMGTS leading Corvette.
As night fell, the No. 17 Pescarolo C60 car was driven into the team's garage with a broken alternator belt. Repairs took 14 minutes and elevated the No. 22 Zytek car of Hayanari Shimoda back into the top ten. Fellows had a rear-left puncture on a crest on the Mulsanne Straight that threw the No. 63 Corvette into a barrier. The car sustained heavy damage to its rear and left-hand corner. Paul Belmondo crashed the No. 37 Courage C65 car when his vision became obscured by a thick dust cloud. The car sustained a puncture in its tub's front-right hand section and was retired in the garage. The accident led to a second brief safety car intervention. As the safety car period ended Darren Turner spun the No. 65 Prodrive Ferrari into a gravel trap at the Dunlop Chicane and Chris Dyson ran the No. 15 Racing for Holland Dome into a gravel trap, requiring him to make a pit stop. At midnight, the two lead Audi cars were separated by a lap and Lehto drew closer to the leader of the LMGTS class, the No. 64 Corvette in fifth overall. Maassen slid the No. 90 White Lightning Porsche on oil in the Porsche Curves; he still led in the LMGT category. Lehto overtook Beretta to be ahead of all the LMGTS entries and bring the number of Audis in the top five overall positions to three.
After Davies' No. 88 Audi served a stop-and-go penalty for passing under yellow flag conditions, he and Magnussen collided with one another at the Ford Chicane and sending the No. 64 Corvette softly into a trackside tyre wall. Davies and Magnussen were able to get their cars back to the pit lane for repairs. The incident gave the No. 66 Prodrive Ferrari of Alain Menu the lead of LMGTS and the gap between Davies and Kristensen was reduced to less than one lap. The No. 66 Prodrive Ferrari was later forced to enter the pit lane with a suspected misfire though it was later discovered that a section of rubber was lodged inside an air restrictor. Menu's Ferrari spent seven minutes undergoing repairs; it rejoined the race with his lead in the LMGTS category over the No. 64 Corvette lowered from four to 2+1⁄2 laps and the Kondo Dome moved ahead of him. The No. 90 White Lightning Porsche continued to lead the LMGT class but in the eleventh hour, the car ceded the lead it had held for the majority of the race when Bergmeister drove into the pit lane to replace a broken shifter linkage cable on its sequential gearbox and underwent a change of brakes. Patrick Long relieved Bergmeister and returned to the track in second, three laps behind Ralf Kelleners' No. 85 Freisinger Porsche. The No. 32 Intersport Lola car of William Binnie was required to enter the pit lane with a broken right-rear halfshaft but the car rejoined the circuit more than half an hour later without losing the lead in LMP2.
As the race approached its halfway point, the No. 22 Zytek car began leaking oil across the circuit at the Porsche Curves due to a possible broken chunk of bodywork hitting an oil union as the engine compartment caught fire from a lack of oil pressure. Brabham drove the car into the pit lane with flames erupting from its compartment bay and it was retired as the safety cars were dispatched for the third time. During the safety car period, Kristensen brought the Team Goh Audi into the pit lane to rectify a misfire he had between the past two hours and the Barron Connor No. 61 Ferrari experienced a left-front brake disc fire that necessitated the car's retirement after mechanics were unable to extinguish the fire and a change of uprights on its suspension system failed to work. In the 12th hour, Gavin missed the braking point for the first Mulsanne Chicane and damaged the front of the No. 64 Corvette. A 15-minute pit stop dropped the Corvette six laps behind Kox's LMGTS-leading No. 66 Prodrive Ferrari and to 11th overall. Not long after, Turner's No. 65 Prodrive Ferrari was affected by gear selection problems and the car spent most of the past hour in the garage. The car fell to fifth in LMGTS. At the front of the field the safety cars separated the field with the race-leading Audi Sport UK R8 of Herbert one lap ahead of Ara's Team Goh R8.
In the early morning, Pirro's Champion Audi was fifth but fell behind Martin Short's No. 6 Rollcentre Dallara SP1 car due to an eight-minute change of brake disc. The No. 17 Pescarolo vehicle passed Enge for eighth overall. Intersport had an anxious moment when Clint Field picked up a right-rear puncture that caused the No. 31 Lola to pirouette leaving the Ford Curves before the entry to the pit lane. He was able to return to the pit lane for a replacement wheel and the Lola retained the LMP2 lead. Before the conclusion of the 15th hour, Short's No. 6 Dallara was hit from behind by Bourdais' No. 17 Pescarolo entry while he was lapping the car after the Dunlop Curve and was beached in a gravel trap. Trackside equipment extricated Short from the gravel and he continued in fourth position. The No. 88 Audi Sport UK R8 of Davies returned to the garage to correct an handling imbalance caused by a seized rear suspension pushrod bearing that took seven minutes to rectify, and promoted the Team Goh car of Capello to the lead. After ceding fourth to the Champion Audi, the No. 6 Dallara car driven by Short experienced a left-rear suspension failure in the Karting Esses. The car spun through 360 degrees and crashed heavily broadside into a tyre barrier at high speed. Short was unhurt though the damage to the car necessitated its retirement.
At this point, Davies set the race's fastest lap at 3 minutes and 34.264 seconds to lower Capello's lead. Comas drove the No. 17 Pescarolo car into the pit lane for repairs to its engine and he remained in third position. Pirro in fourth ran straight at the Mulsanne Corner and beached the Champion Audi R8 in a gravel trap. He recovered with assistance from marshals and made a pit stop for new tyres and Lehto relieved him. Soon after, the race-leading Capello locked his tyres and ran across the second Mulsanne Chicane. He drove the Team Goh Audi into the pit lane because he was fearful of a heavily flat spotted tyre disintegrating and Kristensen took over the No. 5 car. The No. 17 Pescarolo 60 car now driven by Tréluyer launched over a kerb at a Mulsanne Chicane and a subsequent crash into the barrier lost him third to Lehto's Champion Audi R8. Enge's No. 66 Prodrive Ferrari led by five laps in the LMGTS category when its front-left wheel bearing seized in the Dunlop Chicane and damaged the front splitter. The car returned to the garage, losing the class lead to Beretta's No. 64 Corvette. Davies spun the No. 88 Audi Sport UK R8 at the Dunlop Chicane; the error did not lose him a significant amount of time. Further down the order, the No. 85 Freisinger Porsche stopped with an oil feed problem and White Lighting took the lead of LMGT.
Team Goh had an anxious moment when fuel was spilt on the rear of Capello's R8 and ignited. Capello exited the car quickly as flames spread to its right rear though marshals extinguished the fire. Mechanics checked the car for damage and Capello resumed half a minute later. The incident allowed Davies in the No. 88 Audi Sport UK R8 to close to within 90 seconds of the Team Goh Audi but slower traffic subsequently delayed him. Over an hour after losing the LMGTS lead, Menu, driving the No. 66 Prodrive Ferrari, was forced to replace the front splitter on the car in an attempt to correct a handling problem. It did not, however, result in an improvement and Menu drove into the garage for further repairs to the car's undertray. Enge relieved Menu and damaged the front of the Ferrari in an impact against a wall at Indianapolis corner on his first lap out of the pit lane. It dropped him to fourth in class behind Papis' No. 63 Corvette and Rydell's No. 65 Prodrive Ferrari. ChoroQ Racing Team moved to second place in LMGT after Freisinger's Porsche of Ortelli developed a misfire and dropped to third position in class.
The No. 5 Team Goh Audi of Ara withstood a challenge from Herbert's faster No. 88 Audi Sport UK car in the final two hours of the race to take Audi's fourth win in five years at Le Mans by 41.354 seconds, at a distance of 5,169.9 km (3,212.4 mi) and an average speed of 215.418 km/h (133.855 mph). It was Ara's first Le Mans win, Capello's second and Kristensen's sixth. Kristensen equalled Jacky Ickx's all-time record of six victories and was the first driver to win the 24-hour race five times in a row. Champion Racing recovered from its crash in the second hour to finish third. The highest-placed non-Audi was the No. 18 Pescarolo C60 car of Ayari, Comas and Tréluyer in fourth and the No. 8 Audi Sport UK R8 of Frank Biela and Kaffer finished fifth. Although Corvette Racing ran out of spare parts because of the incidents it was involved in, the No. 63 held an 11-lap lead over the No. 64 to finish sixth overall and win the category, earning the team their third class victory. Prodrive completed the class podium with McRae, Rydell and Turner's No. 65 Ferrari in front of the No. 66 of Enge, Kox and Menu. Porsche took the first six positions in the LMGT class as the No. 90 White Lighting entry took its second consecutive category win following its 2003 victory in conjunction with Alex Job Racing and extended the Porsche 911-GT3 RS' number of Le Mans class victories to six since its début in the 1999 edition. By finishing 17th, Team Nasamax's bio-ethanol-powered DM138 became the first renewable-fuelled car in history to finish the Le Mans event. The crew of the No. 32 Intersport car were victorious in LMP2, placing 25th overall and eight laps ahead of the No. 24 Rachel Welter WR LM2001 vehicle, the only other vehicle to finish in the class.
The minimum number of laps for classification (70 per cent of the overall winning car's race distance) was 265 laps. Class winners are denoted with bold.