Ferrari win at Le Mans after holding off Toyota

Ferrari win at Le Mans after holding off Toyota
Race winners Antonio Fuoco (right), Miguel Molina, and Nicklas Nielsen (centre) celebrate - Getty Images /James Moy

Ferrari recorded back-to-back wins at Le Mans when Niklas Nielsen, Antonio Fuoco and Miguel Molina took a narrow victory, crossing the line just 14 seconds ahead of Toyota.

Toyota, which won five races in succession between 2018 and 2022, challenged hard throughout the race, but punctures and contact with other cars dropped them back behind the winning Ferrari.

One of the most controversial moments was when the stronger of the two Toyotas was pushed into a spin by the sister Ferrari of Alessandro Pier Guidi, for which the Ferrari was given a five-second penalty at its next pit stop. The Toyota, driven by Brendon Hartley lost 35 seconds as he recovered from the spin, and dropped away from the leaders to finish fifth.

Ferrari’s win, which follows last year’s victory with British driver James Calado, was extraordinary in that the top nine cars were on the lead lap, including the two Jota Porsches, one Cadillac and the two factory-run Penske Porsches.

Nielsen was forced by the race director to pit with just over 50 minutes remaining as the passenger door of their car was not secured. It looked as though it was too early to complete the race without an extra pit stop, but he defended his lead while fuel saving to the flag. “That was extremely tough,” admitted the Dane as he walked back to celebrate with the team clutching his trophy.

“It is a pleasure to be here and win such a big race like the 24-hours of Le Mans,” said Molina. “I have been working on that so long, last year we were close and this year we come back here stronger.

“Today was our day, because every decision we took was the correct one. Niklas at the end saved fuel to avoid one extra pit stop. I thought that we had lost it when the door was open, everything was gone, but after that we realised that if we saved enough energy we could stay ahead.”

The rain-affected race led to many of the teams gambling on tyre choice as showers swept the majestic 13.6km circuit. At times only part of the track was wet, and other teams gambled on tyres choices in order try to make up time to the Ferrari.

Porsche admitted that it made too many strategic errors and finished fourth and sixth, while the British Jota team recovered from a big accident in practice on Wednesday evening to finish eighth in a completely re-built car.

Having built the car up from a bare shell in two days, the team gave the car a roll out on the airfield opposite the circuit late on Friday night.

Jenson Button was given the honour of driving the team’s second car to the line, the last car on the lead lap in ninth position overall.

There were other British successes during the race, as Oliver Jarvis won the LMP2 class for the United Autosport team, sharing the car with Americans Bijoy Garg and Nolan Siegel.