There was a Ferrari-tale finish to the 100th anniversary running of the Le Mans 24-Hour race.

    The famous Italian company is floundering in Formula 1 through season 2023, but its all-new sports car squad with a 499P hybrid prototype delivered the biggest prize in the business after a torrid stoush at the French event.

    It was the perfect return to Le Mans after a 50-year break and repeated the last Ferrari victory in 1965.

    There was one heart-stopping moment, less than an hour from the finish, when the leading Ferrari failed to fire after its final pitstop. But Alessandro Pier Guidi eventually got the car going and was welcomed at the finish by his co-drivers James Calado and former F1 racer Antonio Giovinazzi.

    “Thank you everyone. Forza Ferrari,” said Pier Guidi as he accepted his winner’s trophy.

    “We were properly on it,” said Calado.

    “It’s just special. We didn’t expect to survive for 24 hours, but all the team did a fantastic job. After 50 years were are back, and we need to be really proud,” said Giovinazzi.

    There was something for everyone at Le Mans as all five major carmakers competing for the big Hypercar prize – Ferrari, Porsche, Cadillac, Peugeot and Toyota – took a turn in the lead.

    But Porsche and Peugeot were too slow from the start, Cadillac had V8 thunder but never starred, and Toyota made mistakes – following five straight uncontested wins – after mounting the biggest challenge.

    So the final finishing order was Ferrari-Toyota-Cadillac, with the second Ferrari in fifth after a troubled run from top spot on the starting grid.

    “It was a tough one just to remain on track. We were too slow. They were faster than us from the beginning,” the lead driver at Toyota, Sebastian Buemi, conceded.

    “We did everything we could. There are no regrets.”

    Chevrolet, a big brand with a supporting role, won the GTE class for production-based sports cars and a thundering NASCAR V8 from the USA won thousands of new fans as it successfully complete the 24-hour grind with a driver line-up including former F1 world champion Jenson Button.

    The race was run in front of a sell-out crowd of 400,000 with every possible weather condition, from 30-plus sunshine to thunderstorms, ensuring it was a race of attrition. There were only three full Safety Car interventions after crashes, but they trimmed more than three hours from the race battle.

    “I have never seen so many incidents at the start of Le Mans before,” said four-time winner Sebastian Buemi of the Toyota team.

    The race was also the curtain-raiser for an even-bigger event in 2024, when BMW, Lamborghini and Alpine will join the new Hypercar contest at Le Mans and in the World Endurance Championship for sports cars.

    Results: 2023 Le Mans 24-Hour race

    1. Ferrari 499P
    2. Toyota GR010
    3. Cadillac V-Series R
    4. Cadillac V-Series R
    5. Ferrari 499P
    6. Glickenhaus 007
    7. Glickenhaus 007
    8. Peugeot 9X8
    9. Porsche 963
    10. Oreca 07 (class winner)
    Paul Gover

    Paul Gover is one of the most experienced and respected motoring journalists in Australia. After more than 40 years on the automotive beat there is nothing he has not done, yet he still brings the enthusiasm of a rookie. He has worked in print, digital, radio, television and for every major publisher in the country. He is also a national motor racing champion and once co-drove with Peter Brock at Bathurst.

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