The 89th 24 Hours of Le Mans (French: 89e 24 Heures du Mans) was an automobile endurance race for Le Mans Prototype (LMP) and Le Mans Grand Touring Endurance (LMGTE) cars held between 21 and 22 August 2021, at the Circuit de la Sarthe, close to Le Mans, France, before 50,000 spectators. It was the event's 89th edition, as organised by the automotive group, the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) since 1923. The event, the fourth round of the 2021 FIA World Endurance Championship, was postponed from June to August to increase the likelihood of admitting spectators to the race amidst the COVID-19 pandemic in France. A test day was held a week prior to the event on 15 August.
The race was the first Le Mans event to feature the new Le Mans Hypercar regulations as its highest class, replacing the LMP1 class. A Toyota GR010 Hybrid shared by Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López began from pole position after Kobayashi set the overall fastest lap time in the hyperpole session. The trio led for most of the race to achieve their first Le Mans victories and Toyota's fourth in succession. Their teammates Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Kazuki Nakajima finished two laps behind in second; Alpine's Nicolas Lapierre, André Negrão and Matthieu Vaxivière, who shared an Alpine A480-Gibson car, completed the overall podium.
The debuting Team WRT squad of Robin Frijns, Ferdinand Habsburg and Charles Milesi won the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class by 0.727 seconds over Jota Sport's Tom Blomqvist, Sean Gelael and Stoffel Vandoorne after the second WRT crew of Louis Delétraz, Robert Kubica and Ye Yifei failed to complete the final lap because of a throttle sensor problem stopping their class-leading Oreca 07 entry. Ferrari won the Le Mans Grand Touring Endurance Professional (LMGTE Pro) class with an AF Corse-fielded Ferrari 488 GTE Evo shared by James Calado, Côme Ledogar and Alessandro Pier Guidi beating Corvette Racing's Nicky Catsburg, Antonio García and Jordan Taylor in a Chevrolet Corvette C8.R by 41.686 seconds. The Italian marque also won the Le Mans Grand Touring Endurance Amateur (LMGTE Am) category for the first time with AF Corse's Nicklas Nielsen, François Perrodo and Alessio Rovera ahead of TF Sport's Felipe Fraga, Ben Keating and Dylan Pereira in an Aston Martin Vantage AMR.
Conway, Kobayashi and López's victory promoted them atop the Hypercar Drivers' Championship by nine points over their teammates, Buemi, Hartley and Nakajima, whose second-place finish demoted them to second. Alpine's Lapierre, Negrão and Vaxivière maintained their hold on third position. Calado and Pier Guidi, with 124 points, overtook Porsche's Kévin Estre and Neel Jani for the GTE Drivers' Championship. Toyota and Ferrari left Le Mans as the respective Hypercar World Endurance and GTE Manufacturers' Championship leaders with two races left in the season.
In 1922, automotive journalist Charles Faroux proposed the 24 Hours of Le Mans to Georges Durand, the president of the automotive group, the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO), and industrialist Emile Coquilem, to test car reliability and fuel-efficiency. Along with the Indianapolis 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix, the race is part of the Triple Crown of Motorsport.
Pre-race, Toyota trio Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Kazuki Nakajima led the Hypercar Drivers' Championship with 75 points, over their teammates Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López with 69 points. With 60 points, Alpine's Nicolas Lapierre, André Negrão and Matthieu Vaxivière were third, with Glickenhaus' Romain Dumas and Richard Westbrook fourth. In the GTE Drivers' Championship, Porsche's Kévin Estre and Neel Jani led with 76 points ahead of AF Corse's James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi in second, and their third-placed teammates Miguel Molina and Daniel Serra. Toyota led Alpine in the Hypercar World Endurance Championship, and Ferrari led Porsche in the GTE Manufacturers' Championship.
The 2021 event, the 89th running of the race, was to be staged at the Circuit de la Sarthe close to Le Mans, France, between 12 and 13 June; because of the COVID-19 pandemic in France, the ACO postponed it to 21 and 22 August to increase the likelihood of admitting spectators pending easing of global travel restrictions based on local vaccine administration rates. It was made the fourth, not the third round of the 2021 FIA World Endurance Championship. The ACO confirmed it would admit a maximum of about 50,000 spectators to the circuit, approximately 20 per cent of its normal 250,000 attendance. Attendees had to present a French Government health passport proving full vaccination, a negative COVID-19 lateral flow test taken within 48 hours, or provide proof of a previous COVID infection between fifteen days to six months and be deemed immune. Face masks had to be worn; the paddock was separated from each of the fan sections.
A new Le Mans Hypercar (LMH) class, with regulations intended to reduce costs and improve competition created jointly by the ACO and the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), replaced the ageing and more expensive Le Mans Prototype LMP1 category. Manufacturers were allowed to construct either specifications of road-going cars or specifically-designed prototype vehicles powered by either a hybrid or a non-hybrid system. The minimum weight and maximum power output of LMH class cars were capped.
Entries for the race were open from 4 December 2020 to 23 February 2021. The ACO granted 62 invitations and entries were divided between the LMH, Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2), Le Mans Grand Touring Endurance Professional (LMGTE Pro) and Le Mans Grand Touring Endurance Amateur (LMGTE Am) classes.
Teams that won their class in the 2020 24 Hours of Le Mans, or won championships in the European Le Mans Series (ELMS), Asian Le Mans Series (ALMS), and the Michelin Le Mans Cup (MLMC) earned automatic entry invitations. The second-place finishers in the 2020 ELMS in LMP2 and LMGTE championships each earned an automatic invitation. Two participants from the IMSA SportsCar Championship (WTSC) were chosen by the ACO to be automatic entries, regardless of their performance or category. As teams were granted invitations, they were allowed to change their cars from the previous year but not their category. The European and Asian LMP3 (Le Mans Prototype 3) champion was required to field an entry in LMP2. The Michelin Le Mans Cup Group GT3 (GT3) champion was limited to the LMGTE Am category.
The ACO announced the final list of automatic entries on 5 March 2021. GPX Racing chose to forgo its automatic invitation because the team did not believe they had the equipment necessary to compete at Le Mans.
|Reason invited||LMP2||LMGTE Am|
|1st in the 24 Hours of Le Mans||United Autosports||TF Sport|
|1st in the European Le Mans Series (LMP2 and LMGTE)||Proton Competition|
|2nd in the European Le Mans Series (LMP2 and LMGTE)||Kessel Racing|
|1st in the European Le Mans Series (LMP3)|
|IMSA SportsCar Championship at-large entries||Patrick Kelly||Ryan Hardwick|
|1st in the Asian Le Mans Series (LMP2 and GT)||G-Drive Racing||Precote Herberth Motorsport|
|1st in the Asian Le Mans Series (LMP3)||United Autosports|
|2nd in the Asian Le Mans Series (GT)||GPX Racing|
|3rd in the Asian Le Mans Series (GT)||Rinaldi Racing|
|4th in the Asian Le Mans Series (GT)||Inception Racing with Optimum Motorsport|
|1st in the Michelin Le Mans Cup (GT3)||Iron Lynx|
The ACO announced the full 62 car entry list on 9 March. In addition to the 33 guaranteed WEC entries, 14 came from the ELMS, five from the WTSC, seven from the ALMS and two one-off Le Mans entries. There were 30 cars in the two LMP classes, 31 in each of the two LMGTE categories and one innovative entry. In addition to the 62 entries given invitations for the race, four were put on a reserve list to replace any withdrawn or ungranted invitations. Reserve entries were ordered with the first replacing the first withdrawal from the race, regardless of the class and entry. They were chosen based on their sporting and technical quality, fan, media and public interest and commitment, and loyalty to other ACO-administered series.
The Garage 56 concept to test new technologies at Le Mans returned after a half-decade absence.[a] The ACO granted the innovative spot to Frédéric Sausset's La Filière by SRT41 team, who had deferred their planned entry from the 2020 event to the following year's race because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It entered the Graff-prepared No. 84 Oreca 07-Gibson car converted to an adapted automobile fitted with a braking, clutch and throttle system controlled by paraplegic drivers Takuma Aoki and Nigel Bailly from a hand-controlled steering wheel. Their non-disabled co-driver Matthieu Lahaye could drive the vehicle normally. The team participated in the four-hour ELMS rounds in France and Spain as a precursor to the longer race at Le Mans.
The FIA and ACO imposed a balance of performance to maintain a separation between the Hypercar and LMP2 categories. The Alpine A480-Gibson car received a maximum stint energy allowance of 844 MJ (234 kWh), a 74 MJ (21 kWh) reduction from 918 MJ (255 kWh) or eight per cent from the preceding 6 Hours of Monza. The Glickenhaus SCG 007 LMH and Toyota GR010 Hybrid vehicles had no performance changes. In LMGTE Pro, 10 kg (22 lb) of weight was removed from the Ferrari 488 GTE Evo for easier handling, and its fuel capacity was raised by 5 l (1.1 imp gal; 1.3 US gal). The Porsche 911 RSR-19 received 1 kg (2.2 lb) weight, 1 l (0.22 imp gal; 0.26 US gal) fuel capacity, and 0.7 mm (0.028 in) air restrictor diameter increases. The LMGTE Am minimum weights were shared by each team per manufacturer, with the Ferraris and Porsches 10 kg (22 lb) heavier than their Pro equivalents and the Aston Martin Vantage AMR lighter at 1,257 kg (2,771 lb).
A test day held on 15 August, one week prior to the race, required all entrants to participate in eight hours of driving divided into two sessions. A majority of signed drivers were involved as well as actor Michael Fassbender driving the No. 77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche; Emmanuel Collard was the No. 83 AF Corse Ferrari's test driver; Laurents Hörr shared the Duqueine Team Oreca 07-Gibson; Gustavo Menezes was nominated to drive both of the Glickenhaus entries, and Pierre Sancinéna joined SRT41's team for test day. Only 11 drivers were granted dispensation to miss testing because they were entered in Formula E's season-ending Berlin ePrix.
Toyota led the first session with a 3:31.263-minute lap by Hartley in the No. 8 Toyota. Lapierre was a quarter of a second slower in the grandfathered LMP1 No. 36 Alpine A480 car; Conway driving the No. 7 Toyota recorded the third-quickest lap. Olivier Pla put the No. 709 Glickenhaus fourth overall. Paul di Resta set the fastest LMP2 lap time with a 3:33.429 driving the No. 23 United Autosports Oreca, ahead of Phil Hanson's No. 22 sister car, Ye Yifei's debuting No. 41 Team WRT entry and Oliver Jarvis' No. 82 Risi Competizione vehicle. Porsche occupied the first two positions in LMGTE Pro with Estre's No. 92 car over the No. 91 sister team of Gianmaria Bruni. The highest-placed Ferrari was Calado's third-placed No. 51 AF Corse entry. Marcos Gomes' No. 98 Aston Martin led LMGTE Am ahead of Alessio Picariello's No. 18 Absolute Racing and Julien Andlauer's No. 88 Dempsey-Proton Porsches. Separate accidents by Satori Hoshino's No. 777 D'Station Racing Aston Martin at the Porsche Curves, Tom Gamble's GR Racing No. 86 Porsche and John Hartstone under braking for the first Mulsanne chicane in Aston Martin's No. 95 entry on the Mulsanne Straight led to stoppages during the session.
The second session saw Glickenhaus move atop when Pla turned in a 3:29.115-minute lap in the No. 709 car with less than ten minutes left. Conway improved the No. 7 Toyota to second place after leading for most of the session; Nakajima's No. 8 car went from first to third. Lapierre's No. 36 Alpine was fourth with Romain Dumas' No. 708 Gilckenhaus fifth. Paul-Loup Chatin bettered LMP2's fastest lap with a time of 3:31.105, leading IDEC Sport's No. 48 team ahead of Will Stevens' No. 65 Panis Racing car and Louis Delétraz's No. 41 WRT entry. United Autosports fell to fourth and fifth after laps by Di Resta and Filipe Albuquerque. In LMGTE Pro, Porsche took the first three positions as Earl Bamber led with a 3:52.901-minute time in the No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Porsche, but he did not better Estre's first session lap. The German company also led in LMGTE Am with the fastest lap set by Harry Tincknell in the No. 99 Proton Competition car. There were three deployments of the full course yellow flag procedure. Roberto Lacorte stopped the No. 47 Cetilar Racing Ferrari before the Mulsanne corner with a rear axle failure, Scott Andrews ran wide onto artificial grass and into the Porsche Curves gravel trap in Kessel's No. 57 Ferrari and Bruni spun entering the Dunlop chicane.
IDEC Sport reconstructed the No. 17 Oreca around a new chassis during the session following contact with Dwight Merriman and the No. 31 WRT car. IDEC subsequently signed former Rebellion driver Thomas Laurent to share the No. 17 car replacing the injured Kyle Tilley, who had withdrawn from the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The first three-hour practice session took place on the afternoon of 18 August. López lapped fastest at 3:29.309, 0.086 seconds quicker than Negrao in second, who was 0.001 seconds ahead of Nakajima in third. Hanson led LMP2, followed by Nyck de Vries' No. 26 G-Drive Racing entry with a 3:29.441-minute lap, and Tom Blomqvist's No. 28 Jota car; they finished fourth, fifth and eighth quickest overall. The trio separated Westbrook's and Pla's Glickenhaus Hypercars in sixth and seventh overall. Daniel Serra's No. 52 AF Corse Ferrari led the Pro class of LMGTE with a 3:50.123-minute lap as Nick Tandy's No. 64 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R was within 0.040 seconds of the Ferrari. Matteo Cairoli's No. 56 Team Project 1 Porsche was fastest in LMGTE Am and the third-quickest amongst all LMGTE entrants as Porsche occupied the first four positions in the Amateur category. Marco Sørensen damaged the No. 20 High Class Racing car's front-right corner in a collision with a tyre barrier exiting the pit lane. António Félix da Costa's No. 28 Jota entry collided with Antonio Fuoco's No. 47 Cetilar car at the Tertre Rouge turn; both accidents forced separate stoppages to the session.
The shorter two-hour session followed that evening. Buemi led with a 3:29.351-minute lap ahead of his teammate Kobayashi by 0.387 seconds as Pipo Derani carried the No. 708 Glickenhaus to third. Jota's Anthony Davidson recorded the fastest LMP2 lap with a time of 3:32.390. Norman Nato's No. 70 Realteam Racing and the No. 22 United Autosports and No. 26 G-Drive cars were second to fourth. Porsche led both LMGTE classes with Laurens Vanthoor's WeatherTech and Frédéric Makowiecki's No. 91 cars heading the Pro category with Andlauer the fastest Amateur class driver in the No. 88 Dempsey-Proton vehicle over Jeroen Bleekemolen's No. 388 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari. Serra locked up heavily at Mulsanne Corner and sustained a right-front puncture damaging his car's right-front corner. With the car stopped just past Arnage corner, this caused a red-flag period for removal and debris cleanup. The session concluded three minutes early when Robby Foley struck the Tertre Rouge corner tyre barriers with the rear of the No. 46 Project 1 car. Foley left the vehicle unaided.
Less than ten minutes before the third practice session, the FIA Endurance Committee issued an updated bulletin detailing immediate balance of performance adjustments to the LMGTE Pro and Am class Ferrari 488 GTEs, lowering its boost levels across all RPM ranges equating to a decrease of 8 hp (6.0 kW) and consequently reducing the car's fuel capacity by 1 l (0.22 imp gal; 0.26 US gal).
The next three-hour session was held the following afternoon. Lapierre's lap of 3:26.594 set late in the session demoted Conway to second. Hartley was third with Pla fourth. Félix da Costa set LMP2's quickest lap of 3:30.213, moving Fabio Scherer's No. 22 United Autosports car to second with his teammate Di Resta third. Estre led LMGTE Pro as Bamber's WeatherTech and Richard Lietz's No. 91 entries ensured the German marque held the first three positions in class. Porsche occupied the top four places in LMGTE Am with Andlauer's No. 88 Dempsey-Proton car leading Cairoli's No. 56 Project 1 and Matt Campbell's No. 77 Dempsey-Proton entries. There were a series of accidents stopping the session twice. Separate crashes by Merriman's No. 17 IDEC car and Juan Pablo Montoya's No. 21 DragonSpeed entering the Dunlop Curve corner saw front and rear damage to both vehicles and required repairs to the right-hand side barriers and track cleanups. Nakajima removed the No. 8 Toyota's rear wing crashing into the left-hand Indianapolis corner wall and returned to the pit lane following trackside recovery.
The final two-hour session was staged later that evening, beginning ten minutes late because of a delay in Hyperpole. Nakajima led with a 3: 27.994-minute time, followed by Lapierre in second, Kobayashi in third, and Ryan Briscoe's No. 709 Glickenhaus in fourth. Franco Colapinto put the No. 26 G-Drive car atop LMP2 at 3:31.414, ahead of Job van Uitert's No. 29 Racing Team Nederland and Albuquerque's No. 22 United Autosports entries. Vanthoor's WeatherTech Porsche led LMGTE Pro and Nicklas Nielsen's AF Corse's No. 83 Ferrari paced LMGTE Am. The session was ended prematurely, with fifteen minutes remaining, when Ollie Milroy lost control of the Inception Ferrari on the inside kerb entering the Ford Chicane at high speed and damaging its right-rear corner against the barrier. IDEC sidelined its No. 17 car for repairs following its third practice session accident as was the No. 49 High Class car, which was undergoing an engine change. Inception Racing worked late in the evening to rebuild their Ferrari around a replacement chassis.
Divided into two sessions, the first one-hour qualifying session determined the race's starting order except for the fastest six vehicles in each class. They advanced to a half-hour shootout called "Le Mans Hyperpole", which determined the car to start on pole position in all four classes. Cars were placed in starting order by category, with every Hypercar at the front of the field regardless of lap time, followed by LMP2, LMGTE Pro and LMGTE Am. The vehicles were placed with the six qualifying hyperpole cars by quickest hyperpole session lap time first, followed by the rest of the non-qualifying hyperpole class vehicles by fastest lap time set during the first qualifying session.
The five entries in the LMP1 class progressed to the hyperpole portion of qualifying with the fastest time being a 3:26.279-minute lap by Kobayashi in the No. 7 Toyota in the first half of the session. In LMP2, the qualifiers were Félix da Costa's No. 38 Jota entry along with entries from De Vries of Racing Team Nederland, Delétraz's No. 41 WRT car, Panis Racing's No. 65 car with Will Stevens, and the No. 32 and 23 United Autosports vehicles of Nico Jamin and Di Resta. The LMGTE Pro hyperpole qualifiers were Serra's No. 52 and Calado's 51 AF Corse Ferraris as well as Estre's No. 92 Porsche, Tandy's No. 64 Corvette, Hub Auto Racing's Dries Vanthoor and Bruni's No. 91 Porsche. LMGTE Am saw the four competing manufacturers qualify for the hyperpole portion of qualifying. They were Andlauer's No. 88 Dempsey-Proton Porsche, Ben Barker's GR Racing entry, Fuoco's No. 47 Cetilar Ferrari, Inception Racing's No. 71 Ferrari used by Ben Barnicoat, Cairoli's No. 56 Team Project 1 Porsche and TF Sport's No. 33 Aston Martin of Felipe Fraga. Paul Dalla Lana lost control of the No. 98 Aston Martin and spun backwards in the gravel trap at the Dunlop Esses. Rahel Frey's No. 5 Ferrari almost did the same at this corner. Both incidents disrupted the session.
Kobayashi recorded the fastest lap at 3:23.900 to achieve his fourth pole position and third in succession in five years at Le Mans. Hartley put the other Toyota second and Lapierre's Alpine was the highest-placed grandfathered LMP1 car third ahead of the Glickenhaus' of Pla and Dumas. Jota's Félix da Costa claimed the LMP2 pole position with a 3:27.950-minute lap. In second through sixth were the WRT (Delétraz), Panis Racing (Stevens), G-Drive (De Vries), and the United Autosports (Jamin and Di Resta) entries. The three GTE manufacturers occupied the first three places in LMGTE Pro. Dries Vanthoor secured the class pole position in the HubAuto Porsche ahead of Serra of AF Corse and Tandy's Corvette. Porsche qualified in the first three positions in LMGTE Am with Andlauer's Dempsey-Proton vehicle on pole position from Barker's GR Racing entry and Cairoli's Project 1 car. Estre lost control entering Indianapolis corner and damaged the No. 92 Porsche's rear-end, striking the barrier on the driver's right at high speed, which stopped the session with 22 minutes remaining.
After qualifying, Porsche began replacing the No. 92 car's heavily damaged chassis with a replacement but were not permitted by ACO regulations to switch the vehicle completely. Porsche were given a 20-minute shakedown session to test the reconstructed vehicle on the nearby Le Mans Airport runway during the night of 20 August. The WEC Committee opted to lower the LMGTE Pro-class Chevrolet Corvette C8.R's minimum weight by 7 kg (15 lb) to 1,269 kg (2,798 lb) and reduce its fuel capacity by 1 l (0.22 imp gal; 0.26 US gal); the Ferrari 488 GTE Evo's fuel capacity was reduced by 3 l (0.66 imp gal; 0.79 US gal) in a Balance of Performance adjustment. That same day, IDEC withdrew its No. 17 car following Merriman's third practice session accident, lowering the field to 61 entries.
Pole positions in each class are denoted in bold.
|1||Hypercar||7||Toyota Gazoo Racing||3:26.279||3:23.900||1|
|2||Hypercar||8||Toyota Gazoo Racing||3:27.671||3:24.195||2|
|3||Hypercar||36||Alpine Elf Matmut||3:27.095||3:25.574||3|
|14||LMP2||24||PR1 Motorsports Mathiasen||3:30.123||14|
|17||LMP2||22||United Autosports USA||3:30.234||17|
|21||LMP2||17||IDEC Sport||3:30.709||WD[Q 1]|
|22||LMP2||29||Racing Team Nederland||3:30.843||21|
|23||LMP2||34||Inter Europol Competition||3:30.908||22|
|25||LMP2||49||High Class Racing||3:31.830||24|
|26||LMP2||20||High Class Racing||3:32.252||25|
|28||LMP2||1||Richard Mille Racing Team||3:32.598||27|
|30||LMP2||39||SO24-DIROB by Graff||3:34.005||29|
|31||LMP2||74||Racing Team India Eurasia||3:36.012||30|
|32||LMGTE Pro||72||HubAuto Racing||3:47.599||3:46.882||31|
|33||LMGTE Pro||52||AF Corse||3:46.011||3:47.063||32|
|34||LMGTE Pro||64||Corvette Racing||3:47.074||3:47.093||33|
|35||LMGTE Pro||51||AF Corse||3:46.581||3:47.247||34|
|36||LMGTE Pro||91||Porsche GT Team||3:47.624||3:47.696||35|
|37||LMGTE Pro||92||Porsche GT Team||3:46.779||No Time||36|
|38||LMGTE Pro||79||WeatherTech Racing||3:47.682||37|
|39||LMGTE Pro||63||Corvette Racing||3:49.643||38|
|40||LMGTE Am||88||Dempsey-Proton Racing||3:48.620||3:47.987||39|
|41||LMGTE Am||86||GR Racing||3:49.100||3:48.560||40|
|42||LMGTE Am||56||Team Project 1||3:49.608||3:48.876||41|
|43||LMGTE Am||47||Cetilar Racing||3:49.102||3:49.387||42|
|44||LMGTE Am||71||Inception Racing||3:49.462||3:49.477||43|
|45||LMGTE Am||33||TF Sport||3:49.663||3:49.676||44|
|46||LMGTE Am||80||Iron Lynx||3:49.693||45|
|47||LMGTE Am||57||Kessel Racing||3:49.715||46|
|48||LMGTE Am||99||Proton Competition||3:49.788||47|
|49||LMGTE Am||54||AF Corse||3:49.829||48|
|50||LMGTE Am||83||AF Corse||3:49.881||49|
|51||LMGTE Am||77||Dempsey-Proton Racing||3:49.913||50|
|52||LMGTE Am||18||Absolute Racing||3:50.016||51|
|53||LMGTE Am||388||Rinaldi Racing||3:50.018||52|
|54||LMGTE Am||95||TF Sport||3:50.059||53|
|55||LMGTE Am||98||Aston Martin Racing||3:50.156||54|
|56||LMGTE Am||85||Iron Lynx||3:50.314||55|
|57||LMGTE Am||60||Iron Lynx||3:50.768||56|
|58||LMGTE Am||777||D'station Racing||3:51.107||57|
|59||LMGTE Am||46||Team Project 1||3:51.411||58|
|60||LMGTE Am||55||Spirit of Race||3:52.088||59|
|61||LMGTE Am||66||JMW Motorsport||3:52.304||60|
|62||LMGTE Am||69||Herberth Motorsport||3:52.960||61|
A 15-minute warm-up session for teams to check their cars took place on the morning of 21 August. Buemi lapped fastest at 3:28.529 with his teammate Conway second-quickest and Lapierre third for Alpine. United Autosports' Alex Lynn Led LMP2 with a 3:32.841-minute lap from teammate Jamin in second. Estre was fastest in LMGTE Pro from his Porsche teammate Bruni; Barnicoat put Ferrari quickest in LMGTE Am. While the session passed with no major incidents, Robin Frijns, Sean Gelael, Robert Kubica and Ricky Taylor each lost control of their LMP2 cars; all were undamaged.
At the start, the circuit was wet from a heavy rain that fell less than an hour before the event began. The ambient temperature was between 15.1 to 22.5 °C (59.2 to 72.5 °F) and the track temperature ranged from 17 to 41 °C (63 to 106 °F). John Elkann, Ferrari's chairperson, waved the French tricolor at 16:00 local time to start the event in front of 50,000 spectators, as race control declared the running of three formation laps behind the safety car because of the wet conditions. Leaving the grid, Tommy Milner appeared to experience difficulty accelerating his No. 64 Corvette past the stalled High Class ORECA LMP2 entry that was slow to drive away from the grid after a mechanic left a movable jack on the car's rear. Because of a fogged-up front windscreen limiting visibility, Calado, in the No. 51 Ferrari, hit Milner, damaging the Corvette's diffuser.
Green flag action commenced after 13 minutes. Pla, who locked the No. 708 Glickenhaus' brakes on the wet circuit entering turn two, hit Buemi's No. 8 Toyota on the rear-left wheel, sending him spinning onto the Dunlop Chicane run-off area, and damaging the Glickenhaus' right-front bodywork. Race control gave Pla a 10-second stop-and-go penalty, deeming him responsible for the collision. Buemi stopped on the Mulsanne Straight's side to reset the Toyota fully before driving wide onto Arnage corner's run-off area, losing more than 90 seconds to teammate Conway. Lapierre moved Alpine to second before falling to fifth by the end of the first hour, spinning without car damage at Indianapolis turn on the third racing lap and losing a minute . Félix da Costa moved Jota's LMP2 car past the non-hybrid LMH entries to be second overall as Buemi returned to third just before every team made pit stops to change from intermediate to dry tyres when the circuit began to dry after half an hour. Maxime Martin relinquished the LMGTE Pro pole-sitting HubAuto team's category lead to Milner after spinning at the Dunlop Bridge following a collision with the Racing Team India Eurasia LMP2 car, dropping Martin to eighth in class. Molina and Calado's No. 52 and 51 Ferraris shared the category lead until swift work by Corvette in the switch to dry tyres gave the LMGTE Pro lead back to Milner. Andlauer led LMGTE Am before the drying track slowed him and Fuoco overtook him for the class lead. Nielsen later passed Fuoco after the first pit stop cycle.
Buemi had returned the No. 8 Toyota to second place 71 minutes in and was within a minute of his teammate Conway. Not long after, Milner was struggling to cope with tyre wear, which was affecting the No. 64 Corvette. Molina moved the No. 52 Ferrari past him for the LMGTE Pro lead into the first Mulsanne Chicane after the two drivers were involved in a short duel. Pier Guidi's No. 51 sister Ferrari later overtook Milner for second in category before briefly taking the class lead for himself to begin the third hour. Conway had an anxious moment when he brought the No. 7 Toyota into the pit lane to replace a rear-left tyre with two slow punctures on it. He would later reclaim the overall lead from his teammate Buemi. Soon after, Buemi and Arnold Robin's No. 39 Graff car made contact driving into the Dunlop Chicane, leading Toyota to inspect the No. 8 entry for potential rim damage. Light rain began falling on portions of the circuit after 21⁄2 hours but soon stopped. Davidson became stuck deep in the gravel approaching the Dunlop Chicane, possibly because of the light rain and attempting to avoid Andrew Haryanto's spun No. 18 Absolute Racing Porsche ahead of him. He lost a lap and two minutes in LMP2 and forfeited the class lead to Colapinto's No. 26 G-Drive car.
Gomes in the LMGTE Am second-placed No. 98 Aston Martin put his left-hand tyres onto artificial grass, entering the right-hand Indianapolis corner and spun across the left-hand side gravel trap into the tyre barrier. He was unhurt and exited the car unassisted, but the vehicle was retired because of the damage it sustained. Race control deployed three safety cars to enable repairs to the barrier and car recovery. During the safety car period, several teams made pit stops. Blomqvist's No. 28 Jota entry took the LMP2 lead with Wayne Boyd's No. 23 United Autosports and James Allen's No. 65 Panis cars second and third in category after Colapinto and Job van Uitert's Racing Team Nederland cars stopped and were demoted to fourth and fifth, respectively. Dylan Pereira extended the No. 33 TF Aston Martin's gap to 75 seconds over the rest of the LMGTE Am field. Kobayashi's No. 7 Toyota was 73 seconds ahead of Hartley's No. 8 car when racing resumed with the first three overall cars separated by the safety cars. The LMGTE Pro lead became a battle between Jordan Taylor's No. 63 Corvette and Côme Ledogar and Sam Bird's AF Corse Ferraris as Pereira's No. 33 Aston Martin and François Perrodo's No. 83 Ferrari vied for first in LMGTE Am.
Stoffel Vandoorne and Boyd battled for the LMP2 lead; the two collided on multiple occasions before Boyd pulled away from Vandoorne in slower traffic through the Porsche Curves and Colapinto was able to challenge Vandoorne for second in class. Hartley made a pit stop in the No. 8 Toyota for a right-rear tyre replacement as a precaution because of a possible puncture and dropped farther back from the No. 7 sister car. As night fell, Bird was lapping Brendan Iribe's Inception LMGTE Am car when the two collided driving into the Ford Chicane, sending the No. 52 car spinning. Bird lost one minute and remained second in LMGTE Pro. Rain began falling again and Manuel Maldonado's No. 32 United Autosports car went straight across the inside gravel at the Dunlop Chicane and struck his teammate Di Resta's LMP2-leading No. 23 entry at the chicane atop a hill. Not long after, Colapinto lost control of the No. 26 G-Drive entry at high speed entering the Porsche Curves and hit Sophia Flörsch's No. 1 Richard Mille Racing car he was passing. As Flörsch reversed across the circuit, Tom Cloet could not react in time and struck the No. 1 car's side with his No. 74 Racing Team India Eurasia entry. Both drivers were unhurt. The No. 1 car was retired; Flörsch was transported to the medical centre since the vehicle's medical light had come on; tests deemed her fit. Safety cars were required for a second time because of the accidents; green flag racing resumed 21 minutes later.
In LMGTE Pro, the safety car had allowed the lead between the two AF Corse cars to grow as Nicky Catsburg briefly took the class lead in the No. 63 Corvette before Calado retook it. Jota's No. 28 entry had a 90-second stop-and-go penalty imposed on it because Blomqvist crossed the white line denoting the pit lane exit when the green light was accidentally illuminated instead of being held to rejoin when the nearest, not the next safety car passed by. The penalty promoted Stevens' No. 65 Panis car to the LMP2 lead before Delétraz's No. 41 WRT entry passed it on the Mulsanne Straight. During the seventh hour, the LMGTE Am-leading Fraga's No. 33 TF Aston Martin and Egidio Perfetti's No. 56 Project 1 Porsche crashed separately but simultaneously into the first Mulsanne Chicane tyre wall, possibly because both drivers hit debris in the area. The Porsche retired because of car damage as Fraga dropped to fourth in LMGTE Am after making a pit stop for a rear splitter replacement and a right-rear puncture replacement. The safety cars were brought out for the third time for approximately half an hour. During this safety car period, the No. 64 Corvette was driven into the garage for a rear diffuser replacement to rectify a vibration felt by driver Alexander Sims and a brake switch.
When racing resumed, Vaxivière lost control of the Alpine by locking its wheels on a damp patch in the braking zone. He beached sideways in the gravel at the first Mulsanne Chicane and required extraction. The incident promoted Derani's No. 708 Glickenhaus to third, as Vaxivière was demoted to fifth. Before the eighth hour ended, Rui Andrade lost control of the No. 25 G-Drive car at high speed and crashed backwards into the right-hand side tyre barrier through the Dunlop Bridge braking zone, leading to the entry's retirement. The safety cars were dispatched for the fourth time for car recovery; racing continued almost half an hour later. Lapierre was able to return the Alpine to third overall following a short duel with Pla's No. 708 Glickenhaus in slower traffic and lapping around two seconds quicker than Pla. Cooper MacNeil lost control of the sixth-placed LMGTE Pro WeatherTech Porsche on the Ford Chicane entry kerbs and crashed into the left-hand tyre barrier, activating the medical light. MacNeil drove the car slowly into the garage, where it was retired because of heavy right-hand side damage. At mid-point, Kobayashi led overall ahead of his teammate Hartley. Milesi and Yifei Ye's WRT cars led LMP2, and AF Corse held sway in both the LMGTE classes.
In the early morning, Ye's No. 41 WRT vehicle moved into the LMP2 lead after he overtook his teammate Milesi's No. 31 entry before Frijns reclaimed the class lead. Kobayashi had an anxious moment when he locked the No. 7 Toyota's tyres braking into Indianapolis corner and decided to stop the car at the turn's exit on the run-off area just before the tyre barrier. Though the tyre lockup lost him 20 seconds to his teammate Hartley, he retained the overall lead. The No. 22 United Autosports vehicle's hold on third in LMP2 was relinquished to Jota's No. 28 team when it entered the garage for alternator repairs, which lasted 90 minutes. Molina subsequently ceded the No. 52 AF Corse Ferrari's hold on third place in LMGTE Pro to Estre's No. 92 Porsche because of a front-left suspension failure requiring half an hour of significant repairs by his team. The main on-track action at this point was the battle for third in LMP2 between Sean Gelael's and later Blomqvist's No. 28 Jota and Stevens' No. 65 Panis cars.
With approximately seven hours remaining, both Toyota cars began suffering from a fuel pick-up glitch, causing the fuel pump filters to clog with a mix of polyurethane particles created by collapsing inner fuel bladders in the tank rubbing against each other when fuel levels decreased and grease from a refuelling nozzle connector system contamination affecting fuel pressure. This reduced the team's stints incrementally from the normal 13 laps just before two-thirds of the race distance. Senior engineer Dominique Gardener thought of a procedure for drivers to press a button on the steering wheel while braking and accelerating in and out of corners to switch the fuel pumps on and off to manage fuel consumption and to attempt to produce pressure to clear the filter. Buemi's No. 8 Toyota fell more than three minutes behind Kobayashi's race-leading No. 7 Toyota when he stopped briefly on the straight after Mulsanne corner to reset the car by changing multiple gear settings. The No. 52 Ferrari suffered a further setback when Bird brought the car to the garage for right-front bodywork repairs, the result of a front-right puncture that left debris on the circuit. In LMGTE Pro, both factory Porsches battled for third as Catsburg's No. 63 Corvette drew closer to Calado and Ledogar's No. 51 Ferrari for the category lead when Ledogar made a pit stop to change brakes.
In the 21st hour, Pereira and Ben Keating were able to recover from TF Sport's earlier puncture by lapping faster than Perrodo's and Alessio Rovera's No. 83 Ferrari and moved the No. 33 Aston Martin back to the LMGTE Am lead. Hartley's second-placed No. 8 Toyota drove into the pit lane for less than two minutes to repair a malfunctioning right-hand side door. A mechanic did this using a laptop they plugged into the car. The stop dropped him a lap behind López, the overall race leader. A blocked air jack delayed the LMP2-leading No. 31 WRT car taken over by Frijns, causing him to make two pit stops to switch tyres and a subsequent collision with an LMGTE Am-class Porsche. The No. 31 WRT car relinquished the category lead they had held for 135 consecutive laps to Ye's No. 41 sister vehicle. WRT used giant inflatable pillows placed under the car. This allowed the team to install tyres on a single axle one end at a time, bypassing the faulty jack. TF Sport's Keating ceded the LMGTE Am lead he had held for eight laps to Rovera's No. 83 Ferrari, as the Aston Martin had to be driven to the pit lane because of a misfiring engine.
Makowiecki's fourth-placed LMGTE Pro No. 91 Porsche braked later than expected from a loss of brake pressure into the Ford Chicane and removed the car's rear diffuser and bodywork housing after driving over a grassy hill just off the racing surface. Race control instructed Makowiecki to enter the pit lane. Rear-end repairs lasted more than five minutes, but the No. 91 car retained fourth in class. Just as he began the final lap with less than three minutes remaining, Ye's LMP2-leading No. 41 WRT car stopped down the hill past the Dunlop Bridge because of a broken throttle sensor creating an electrical short circuit that temporarily turned the engine's electronic control unit off. Frijns' No. 31 sister car inherited the LMP2 lead; he held off Blomqvist's approaching No. 28 Jota entry in slower GT traffic, and avoided hitting Patrick Morriseau, the Clerk of the Course, who was waving the chequered flag close to the start/finish straight's centre to win LMP2 by 0.727 seconds.
Kobayashi maintained the overall lead the No. 7 Toyota had held for 178 consecutive laps to finish first after 371 laps and achieve his, Conway and López's first Le Mans victory--Toyota's fourth in succession. They finished two laps over Buemi, Hartley and Nakajima's No. 8 sister car. The Alpine completed the overall podium, four laps behind the race-winning team in third position. The two Glickenhaus entries completed the Hypercar order in fourth and fifth. WRT's LMP2 win meant they were the first debuting team to win since Starworks Motorsport in 2012. This was the fourth time the team had debuted in a major endurance event and won. Panis Racing completed the class podium in third. The No. 21 DragonSpeed team of Ben Hanley, Montoya and Henrik Hedman overcame fuel problems and a driver stint problem to win the LMP2 Pro-Am Cup. Ferrari claimed its first victory in LMGTE Pro since 2019 with the No. 51 AF Corse car ahead of the No. 63 Corvette by 41.686 seconds after leading for the final 205 laps. The Italian marque had a first-time win in LMGTE Am with the No. 83 team finishing a lap ahead of TF Sport's No. 33 Aston Martin. Pier Guidi and Ledogar's LMGTE Pro and Nielsen's LMGTE Am victories came just three weeks after their 2021 24 Hours of Spa win.
The top three teams in each class appeared on the podium to collect their trophies and spoke to the media in a later press conference. Conway said he was "crying like a little girl" and spoke of the difficulty of winning Le Mans: "We came close so many times, and to get it done here with the new hypercar as well with these boys ... [my] teammates did a stellar job as always." López commented the race's final hours were stressful because Toyota were coping with a fuel problem, and Kobayashi felt he and his co-drivers' losses at Le Mans strengthened their bond. Buemi said he felt "quite lucky" not to sustain major damage to the No. 8 car on the first lap, and that finishing second was satisfactory, adding: "Somehow to finish second after that is quite good, we had even been leading the race at some points, so it was pretty impressive." Hartley revealed Toyota were concerned his team would fail to finish and was happy to place second. Lapierre commented that Alpine expected to finish higher and acknowledged that Toyota were the faster team. Alpine team principal Philippe Sinault said the team's third-place finish was "an excellent result" and they had no reason to be disheartened. Pascal Vasselon, Toyota's technical director, said calling both its cars into the garage would have cost them victory to Alpine.
Frijns said he felt WRT "did an amazing job by basically leading both cars into the night and come out unscratched. The cars were both working really amazing, we had really good pace...". He described the close finish in LMP2: "the two Toyotas were in front of me, and they were slowing down before the finish line for their photo. But the three, four cars behind them were all slowing down and I was still fighting for the win I was trying to find my way around them, and I saw the chequered flag guy a bit late but luckily everything went well...". WRT reported that after the No. 41 car was recovered from parc fermé by mechanics, the engine and ancillaries were determined to be unmarred. Blomqvist said he was happy with his racing and lamented losing the LMP2 victory to WRT: "It's a shame to lose. Maybe we feel like we lost the win, getting so close to it ... To lose by seven-tenths is hard. But everything went WRT's way in this race. We had a few mistakes and things that went against us."
Pier Guidi said of his second LMGTE Pro win: "It wasn't easy at all. Sometimes you gain, sometimes you lose, so we pushed really hard -- the rain made it really hard for everyone. The Corvette was super quick, but we expected that." Catsburg was positive about finishing second in class and was pleased with the Corvette's performance, saying: "This is my third time at Le Mans, and the first two times we finished nowhere. To be in the fight right to the last lap was very cool. It went well." Antonio García said he would have preferred to have won, adding: "We were both alone so it was a one-on-one fight between Corvette and Ferrari. We were close." His teammate Taylor noted: "It's hard to complain with a podium at Le Mans. But when you come this close, it's difficult to take." Jani attributed Porsche's poor performance in LMGTE Pro to Estre spinning, and when his co-driver emerged in a second group of cars during a safety car deployment dividing the GTE categories before midnight. TF Sport owner Tom Ferrier concluded his team's car being slowed by a puncture and the resulting loss of time prevented them from challenging AF Corse close to the race's conclusion. Fraga spoke of his fear debris from Perfetti's accident would mean the Aston Martin would be retired.
Conway, Kobayashi and López's victory moved them atop the Hypercar Drivers' Championship with 120 points, nine ahead of their teammates Buemi, Hartley and Nakajima and 30 points over Lapierre, Negrão and Vaxivière. Calado and Pier Guidi took the GTE Drivers' Championship lead from Estre and Jani with 124 points to the latter's 112. Toyota and Ferrari left Le Mans as the respective Hypercar and GTE Manufacturers' Championship leaders, with two rounds of the season remaining.
The minimum number of laps for classification at the finish (70 per cent of the overall race winner's distance) was 260 laps. Class winners are in bold.