After 24 hours of competition at the 13.626 km Circuit de la Sarthe, it was the No. 8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing that took victory this afternoon at the 24 Hours of Le Mans 2019. The record-breaking 61-car field that started the 87th edition of this historic endurance challenge, demonstrated the durability and robustness of the modern sports car. Rolex has championed 24-hour racing since the 1960s, recognizing the on-going quest for engineering excellence and precision. The Swiss watch brand has been the Official Timepiece of the 24 Hours of Le Mans since 2001.
Completing 385 laps, the No. 8, driven by Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Fernando Alonso, took the lead with just under an hour to go when the sister No. 7 car suffered a puncture in a dramatic final act of the race. The No. 7 had been fastest all week, taking pole position on Thursday and, through record-breaking pace in the early stages of the race, secured a healthy gap, before being forced to pit for new tyres twice in quick succession, forfeiting the win to finish second. With victory, the No. 8 secured back-to-back 24 Hours of Le Mans titles and the 2018-2019 FIA World Endurance LMP Drivers’ Championship.
Closely-fought racing continued down the field. The Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) category teams proved reliable as 16 of the 20 starters crossed the finish line, with the No. 36 Signatech Alpine Matmut at the head of the pack, one lap ahead of its nearest rival. In an epic contest of endurance, that often felt more like a sprint race, the Le Mans Grand Touring Endurance Pro (LMGTE Pro) class had wheel-to-wheel racing from start to finish, with manufacturers separated by seconds for much of the 24-hour marathon. The result was ultimately decided when the No. 63 Corvette Racing spun off the track, allowing the No. 51 AF Corse to take the LMGTE Pro win in the year that Ferrari marks 70 years since its maiden 24 Hours of Le Mans victory. The No. 85 Keating Motorsports built an unassailable lead in the LMGTE Am class, completing a total of 334 laps to stand atop the podium.
This edition marked the first time the 24 Hours of Le Mans hosted the season finale of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). Over the course of 86 hours of driving across six countries and 14 months, the WEC witnessed incredible technical developments across the field as the teams continuously closed the competitive gap to one another.
Rolex Testimonee and record nine-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Tom Kristensen remarks: “This weekend has illustrated the rollercoaster of emotions at Le Mans – we have experienced the thrill of close racing, as well as the anguish of untimely reliability issues. The race demands absolute perseverance and durability from both human and machine in their shared pursuit of the ultimate performance.”
Presented to the overall winners of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is a specially engraved Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona, acknowledging the legendary status of the contest and the achievements of those who continue to take on this definitive race against time.