A spectacular helicopter stunt kicked off the 2022 24 Hours of Le Mans on Saturday June 11 as a military helicopter circled the stands. Two soldiers then ziplined to the pre-race ceremony, to deliver the French flag, marking an emotional return to a full crowd at Le Mans, after last year’s limited crowds due to the Covid pandemic -19. It was a stunt that not only wowed the fans, but also set the tone for an exciting 24 hours that would culminate in first place overall for the Toyota Gazoo Racing team, with its number 8 GR010 car, and its fifth consecutive victory at Le Mans.
The Toyota GR team took on the Glickenhaus and Alpine teams in the Hypercar class, but it really wasn’t a competition, as Toyota was barely challenged by either Hypercar team. In the end, only Toyota and Glickenhaus would make it onto the hypercar podium, with Toyota taking both first and second place and Glickenhaus third. The latter marks the first time an American-designed car has been on the podium at Le Mans since the Ford GT’s overall victory in 1969.
Toyota’s victory also marks the fourth victory at Le Mans for Swiss driver Sébastien Buemi, the third victory for New Zealand driver Brandon Hartley and the first for Japanese driver Ryo Hirakawa.
In the LMP2 class (Le Mans Prototype 2), the Jota team quickly took the lead and took a class victory, with the number 38 ORECA-Gibson 07 driven by Antonio Felix da Costa, Roberto Gonzalez and Will Stevens. Jota also took third place in the LMP2 class, with car number 28, driven by Ed Jones, Jonathan Aberdeinn and Oliver Rasmussen.
In the LM GTE Pro class, tragedy struck for the Corvette Racing team, as both cars failed to finish the race, having comfortably led their class. The number 63 Corvette had its left rear suspension fail dramatically, forcing it to retire. Then, later in the race, the number 64 Corvette, driven by Alexander Sims at the time, was cut by Francois Perrodo in his LMP2 car, sending Sim’s Corvette into the barrier and taking the car out of the race.
After the hit, Perrodo felt so horribly about cutting the Sims’ Corvette, especially since they were racing in different classes, that he immediately drove to the Corvette team paddock to apologize in person. “I’m sorry, guys. There are no words,” Perrodo said, according to Eurosport. The Corvette team would have been grateful for Perrodo’s apology and it would be an emotional moment between the two teams.
Due to the retirement of the two Corvettes from the race, the number 91 Porsche 911 RSR 19, from the Porsche GT team, took the last victory in the GTE Pro class. Two Ferrari 488 GTE Evos, car numbers 51 and 52, took second and third place respectively for the AF Corse team.
There was an appearance by a famous driver in the LM GTE AM class, as actor Michael Fassbender raced for the Proton Competition team, in a Porsche 911 RSR 19. However, Fassbender’s team did not will not reach the podium in the GTE AM category. Instead, the number 33 Aston Martin Vantage AMR would win the GTE AM class for the TF Sport team.
The story of the day, however, was one of Toyota’s dominance. Gazoo Racing cars were barely challenged even by their Hypercar class rivals. Opponents will complain about the lack of real competition, with only two other teams in the Hypercar class, however, few critics backed Audi’s dominant run at Le Mans despite its own lack of competition years ago. Toyota has been on a roll at Le Mans, winning overall for the past four years, and its engineers and drivers deserve immense credit for their continued success.