This year, as always, Michelin’s mission at Le Mans is to provide the drivers of the 53 cars competing on its tyres with superior grip and long-lasting perfo...
Toyota Gazoo Racing claimed a second one-two finish at Le Mans to earn a 22nd consecutive win for its partner Michelin in the famous French endurance race. Victory ended up in the hands of the N°8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, ahead of the N°7 sister car, while winning drivers Buemi, Nakajima and Alonso wrapped up the 2018/2019 FIA WEC title. The top-three was rounded out by the N°11 BR1/Michelin. Michelin topped the order in LMP2, too, with Alpine (Lapierre/Negrao/Thiriet), as well as in LM GTE Pro and LM GTE Am with Ferrari (Pier Guidi/Calado/Serra) and Ford (Keating/Bleekemolen/Fraga) respectively. The 2019 Le Mans 24 Hours provided Michelin with the ideal opportunity to showcase the long-lasting performance credentials of its Pilot Sport Endurance tyres.
Although Toyota appeared not to face any significant opposition this year, everyone knows that nothing can ever be taken for granted at Le Mans which hasn’t earned its reputation for being the world’s most punishing endurance race by accident!
The Japanese squad shrugged off any pressure there might have been, however, to post a near-perfect performance and finish with both of its TS050-Hybrids six laps clear of their closest threat, which ended up being the third-placed N°11 SMP Racing non-hybrid prototype.
The pole-winning N°7 car topped the leaderboard for the majority of the 24 hours, aided by a multi-stint strategy which saw Lopez complete 46 laps on the same set of Michelins Pilot Sport Endurance.
But the slightly faster pace of Conway, Kobayashi and the Argentine driver went unrewarded when the latter was forced to make an unscheduled stop to replace a tyre damaged by debris with less than an hour remaining. The move handed the win to the N°8 sister car of Fernando Alonso, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima who took the trophy for the second year running. The Toyota trio also harvested Michelin’s 22
Three decades after its win with Alpine-Renault in 1978, Michelin’s successful weekend continued with a satisfying victory in LMP2 thanks to the N°36 Alpine which switched back to its tyres for the last three rounds of the 2018/2019 FIA World Endurance Championship, a move that paid dividends not only this weekend at Le Mans but also in the WEC standings since the French outfit’s result has earned it this season’s LMP2 world title. The Signatech-run car was locked in a fierce fight with the N°26 G-Drive prototype for much of the early part of the race, but the latter fell back with a technical issue which allowed Lapierre/Negrao/Thiriet to push on to the class win by a margin of one lap.
As usual, the LM GTE Po class produced a thrilling scrap which, true to tradition, went down to the wire. With the exception of BMW/Michelin, all of the carmakers involved in the category (Aston Martin/Michelin, Corvette/Michelin, Porsche/Michelin, Ferrari/Michelin and Ford/Michelin) appeared in front at one moment or another, but the N°51 Ferrari of Pier Guidi/Calado/Serra survived late pushes by the N°91 (+49s) and N°93 (+1m7s) Porsches to clinch the victory, the Italian make’s first at Le Mans since 2014.
Porsche was also forced to settle for second place in LM GTE Am which was won by the N°85 Ford/Michelin of Keating/Bleekemolen/Fraga. The Keating Motorsports-tended car appeared in front on Saturday evening and doggedly defended its advantage to the flag, despite serving a late ‘Stop&Go’ penalty which allowed the N°56 Porsche/Michelin (2