After 24 hours of intense racing, Toyota Gazoo Racing claimed a fifth successive victory at the 90th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. On Sunday afternoon at 4.00 p.m. local time, the No. 8 prototype took the chequered flag in front of an exuberant crowd at Circuit de la Sarthe. For almost a century, the world’s greatest endurance race has been at the forefront of innovation and this year’s event signalled a significant new chapter for the sport. As the Official Timepiece of the 24 Hours of Le Mans since 2001, and more recently the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), Rolex supports the ongoing quest for excellence at the highest level of motor racing.
This year’s race played out under clear skies and, amid soaring track temperatures, man and machine were tested over a gruelling 24 hours. Across the four categories, 62 cars started the race and, as day gave way to night, just a few seconds separated the Toyota Gazoo Racing duo at the front of the field. As the sun rose over Circuit de la Sarthe the emotional and physical ware began to tell; WEC frontrunner No. 36 Alpine Elf Endurance Team recovered from a heavy incident, while in the LMGTE Pro category No. 64 Corvette Racing relinquished a commanding lead, following a sudden collision. The elite Hypercar class saw a Toyota Gazoo Racing 1–2, with the No. 38 JOTA ORECA 07-Gibson racing to victory in the competitive LMP2 category. The No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR was consistent throughout, taking a comfortable win in the LMGTE Pro’s last 24 Hours of Le Mans, while the No. 33 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage AMR gained honours in the LMGTE Am class.
Time is an integral part of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with every lap and every second magnified in this ultimate race against the clock. Following the conclusion of this year’s race, the winning drivers stepped onto the podium to receive the 24 Hours of Le Mans trophy and a specially engraved Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona, in recognition of the dedication and perseverance required to succeed. Having won the event for the third time, Toyota Gazoo Racing's Brendon Hartley reflects:
"Taking the car over the line today was a very special feeling. I’m a small piece of the puzzle; all of my teammates are part of this victory. I broke down in tears after the race as my wife and six-month-old daughter are here and, not that she’ll probably remember it, but I have promised that this Rolex is for her."
The 24 Hours of Le Mans is steeped in tradition yet continues to demonstrate a relentless commitment to performance and technical advancement. The extreme conditions of the 13.626 kilometre racetrack mean reliable solutions are found faster and the endurance epic has proven to be the ideal testing ground for future technologies. For the first time in the 99-year history of the race, this year saw the introduction of 100 per cent renewable fuel, as well as the track debut of a hydrogen-electric prototype prior to the race.
Next year, the focus will be on the 100th anniversary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, when the race reaches this milestone on the 10–11 June 2023. As its most decorated driver, Rolex Testimonee Tom Kristensen will take on the role of ambassador for the centenary edition. Looking ahead to the event, Kristensen says:
"The 24 Hours of Le Mans is a legendary race; the history is mythical, brought to life by the extraordinary stories throughout almost a hundred years of racing. In 2023, all the manufactures will want to return so we will see many new teams and drivers entering, which shows how important and relevant Le Mans is. Attending as part of the Rolex family will give me an opportunity to look back on my career and be reminded of my love for the sport."
A special trophy is being designed to honour this momentous occasion and will embark on a journey to a variety of motor sport celebrations around the world, which reflect on the past while looking to the future. Its official unveiling is set to take place later this year on Sunday 21 August at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance® in California (USA). The trophy will then travel onto further events with which Rolex has close ties, including the Goodwood Revival in West Sussex (UK), before it ultimately returns home to Circuit de la Sarthe in June, in time for the 24 Hours of Le Mans 2023.
Adam has been a race fan since the first time he went through the tunnel under the Daytona International Speedway more than 30 years ago. He has had the privilege of traveling to races all across the state of Florida (as well as one race in Ohio), watching nearly everything with a motor compete for fame and glory, as well as participating in various racing schools to get the feel of what racecar drivers go through every week.
Adam spent several years covering motorsports for Examiner.com., where he had the opportunity to see the racing world from behind the scenes as well as the grandstands. He invites everyone to follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus, and looks forward to sharing his enthusiasm for all things racing with the readers of SpeedwayDigest.com.
Be sure to tune in for his sports talk program, Thursday Night Thunder, where he discusses the latest in motorsports news with drivers, crew members, and fans. The show takes place (almost) every Thursday at 8:00 pm EST on the Speedway Digest Radio Network.