The 2020 24 Hours of Le Mans will go down in the history books as a unique race for many reasons. Firstly, because of the lack of an audience due to the fact the world is still battling a global pandemic. With all this turmoil one might forget that this race was the Le Mans swansong of the LMP1 Hybrid category, with the Le Mans Hypercar taking the reins next year.
A lack of public: a bit weird
Much like in the 24 Hours of Motos, the lack of public was especially felt in the paddock, where there was no fan village, no signing sessions, and the only people walking around were team members or officials. And, instead of the race starting under the usual sound of a roaring crowd, the only thing you could hear this time was the sound of the engines blasting towards Dunlop Bridge.
In order to finish first, first you have to finish!
After this point, however, all the teams retreated to their boxes, where they hunkered down with only one goal in mind - finishing as high as possible on Sunday afternoon. Not an easy feat in any endurance race, but especially not this 2020 edition. Throughout the race, drama unfolded in every category. In LMP1 it was clear that the Toyotas had the upper hand, but the 2017 edition of the race was still fresh in their minds. As the saying goes: “in order to finish first, first you have to finish”. Something the #7 Toyota experienced firsthand during the night.
Drama in the LMP2 Category
The biggest drama of the race did unfold in the LMP2 category, as predicted in our preview. With 24 LMP2 cars on the grid, and over half of them fielding a team of drivers with the skills to win it. In LMP2 the drama actually started on Thursday, when the French IDEC team saw both its cars smashing into the barriers, which brought about major work through the night to get the cars out on track in the following days.
Murphy’s law strikes again
During the race however the drama didn’t stop. Within 30 minutes of the race starting, four LMP2 cars had already been back to the garage. This start of the race set the tone for the coming twenty-three hours and thirty minutes. During the halfway point of the race the heat at the front of the field was turned up to eleven as both United Autosport cars, who had been sharing the lead for most of the race, started dicing for the lead of the race, a racing fan’s dream but a team principal’s nightmare. In the end the #32 car had to forfeit the battle, which left the reins firmly in the hands of the #22 car. It started from pole position, with Phil Hanson, Filipe Albuquerque and Paul Di Resta behind the wheel.
United Autosports takes the victory, proudly powered by Motul!
With 30 minutes left to go, and when you start to think the race is set in stone, Le Mans strikes back and hits hard. This time it was the Motul-powered G-Drive car. With Jean-Eric Vergne behind the wheel, it suffered a front left suspension failure, losing its podium spot in the race. During the final minutes of the race the tension rose in the United Autosport box as the Jota team started to inch closer and closer, and calculations showed that the #38 would come within a pit stop window of the leader. While they knew #22 still needed one fuel stop, and without knowing if their competitor would need one too. When the #38 car dove into the pitlane elation rolled through the box and Phil Hanson would cross the finish line with a close 30 second lead after 24 hours of racing. With this victory the British team also grabbed the 2020 LMP2 world title with one more race to go.
One of the weirdest in the event’s history...
This COVID-19 edition of Le Mans will be remembered as both one of the most exciting editions as well as one of the weirdest in the event’s history. Next year will be a completely different race again, with the launch of the Le Mans hypercar, followed by the addition of the LMDh prototypes in 2022.