After a 2020 edition disputed behind closed doors due to the Covid-19 epidemic and that of 2021 which only welcomed 50,000 spectators (20% of the usual number), the stands of the Sarthe circuit were, this year , filled to the brim for the 90e edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Saturday June 11 and Sunday June 12, 2022.
But if the atmosphere was different in the stands, on the track nothing has changed, or almost. For the fifth year in a row, Toyota has won the Le Mans classic, again achieving the double (as in 2018, 2019 and 2021) in the “Hypercars” category.
Unlike the previous edition, however, it was the crew of the Toyota n⁰ 8 of Switzerland’s Sébastien Buemi, the Japanese Ryo Hirakawa and the New Zealander Brendon Hartley who finished ahead of the Toyota n⁰ 7 of Briton Mike Conway, Japan’s Kamui Kobayashi and Argentinian José Maria Lopez, two minutes ahead of the finish Sunday at 4 p.m.
The American team Glickenhaus completes the podium thanks to the crew n⁰ 709, composed of the Australian Ryan Briscoe, the Briton Richard Westbrook and the French Franck Mailleux, five laps behind the Toyota n⁰ 8.
Alpine, never in the game
On the other hand, the French Alpine team had a gloomy weekend. Overtaken from the start by the two Glickenhaus, the No. 36 crew of Brazilian André Negrao and Frenchmen Matthieu Vaxiviere and Nicolas Lapierre were already seven laps behind the leader on Saturday at 10 p.m., after two pit stops in less than a minute. half an hour, following a clutch problem.
Worse, an accident occurred on Sunday morning around 9 a.m.: Matthieu Vaxiviere lost control of his vehicle on entering a bend while trying to overtake a GT car (slower), ending up against the protective barrier. After again giving up time in the pits to make repairs, the Alpine finally finished in the 23e place, eighteen laps behind the winner.
Despite a spin from Sébastien Buemi shortly before 11 p.m. on Saturday and a puncture on Sunday around 7:30 a.m., still with the Swiss driver at the wheel, the Toyota n⁰ 8 controlled the race by demonstrating all its reliability.
At 33, Mr. Buemi joins Frenchman Yannick Dalmas, Belgian Olivier Gendebien and Frenchman Henri Pescarolo in the closed circle of quadruple winners of the Le Mans classic. The record for the number of victories among pilots remains the possession of the Dane Tom Kristensen (nine successes). “We’re happy, we didn’t have any problems. It’s incredible. It’s perfect. A great day »declared, phlegmatic, the native of the canton of Vaud on arrival at the microphone of La Chaîne L’Equipe.
In the second category of vehicles called “LMP2” (for “Le Mans prototype 2”), JOTA n⁰ 38 won ahead of Prema n⁰ 9 and JOTA n⁰ 28. Note the 9e place for Sébastien Ogier, the eight-time world rally champion, who took part for the first time in the legendary endurance race, within the No. 1 crew of Richard Mille Racing.
In the third category, in “LM GTE Pro” (for “Le Mans grand tourisme endurance”), the Porsche n⁰ 91 finished ahead of two Ferraris, the n⁰s 51 and 52, at the end of a twisty race.
Barely the 2022 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans finished, the next one is already particularly awaited and not only because it will be that of the centenary. The year 2023 will also mark the return of the big teams: Peugeot, Porsche, Ferrari or even Cadillac, which will increase competition in the “Hypercars” category.