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How to win the Le Mans 24 Hours: we consult 2024’s winners

evo sits down with veterans of the Le Mans 24 Hours and winners of the 2024 race, and asks them what it takes to win racing’s ultimate prize

Together with the Monaco Grand Prix and the Indy 500, the Le Mans 24 Hours is one of motorsport’s ultimate single events. Win the race and you achieve sporting immortality. But what exactly does it take to win one of racing’s ultimate prizes? At the 2024 Le Mans race weekend, evo sits down with this year’s winners (and drivers who’ve come achingly close in previous years) and asks them what time has taught them.

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> Le Mans 24 Hours 2024: Ferrari triumphs (again) with the 499P

The drivers

James Calado: 2023 Le Mans winner for Ferrari

Antonio Giovinazzi: 2023 Le Mans winner for Ferrari 

Nick Tandy: 2015 Le Mans winner for Porsche

Antonio Fuoco: 2024 Le Mans winner for Ferrari

Nicklas Nielsen: 2024 Le Mans winner for Ferrari

Yifei Ye: led the Le Mans 2023 race for Jota Porsche before an accident

The first half of the race isn’t that important

Antonio Giovinazzi:

‘You need to make no mistakes, to be consistent in every hour – and be there in the last hour.’ 

Yifei Ye:

‘If you’re in the top five by Sunday morning, then you have a chance.’

Antonio Fuoco:

‘This year, we’ll try to survive until the morning – and then if we have good pace, we’ll try to attack until the end. Last year we saw for the first four to five hours, it was a really hard race, then it settled down after midnight. This year I think a lot of people will be pushing to show they are fast, and Toyota will be coming from the back…’

Don’t get drawn in to unnecessary battles

Nick Tandy:

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‘You’ll see some very tough, close racing at the front, particularly in the first hour. But when the first safety car comes, the race restarts. And when you know rain is on the radar – we know to just let them fight.’

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YY:

‘When racing someone else, you sometimes forget your fuel-saving targets…’

Use your team-mates’ knowledge

YY:

‘[My team-mate] Robert Kubica has a lot of experience from F1, and even from rallying, he has some ideas which help us…’

Drivers can make a big difference in the wet: but be wary

AG:

‘At Le Mans you never know if, or when, it will rain. Our car is good in the rain but the driver has to do a lot of things!’

YY:

‘Racing in the wet is tricky at Le Mans – especially at night. I was watching the Canadian Grand Prix recently, where the drivers were racing on one narrow dry line and the rest of the track was wet. Imagine doing that at night in the Porsche Curves…’

Master the traffic

NT: 

‘I study the entry list to see who is driving the GT cars. Professional drivers can let a prototype through in a more predictable way. You can tell who’s driving the car from two corners away from the car’s body language – whether they’re a pro driver or somebody less experienced and less predictable.

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‘That said, from a traffic point of view, Le Mans is quite relaxed compared with Daytona – which has the same number of cars but the track is half the size – or the Nürburgring 24 Hours, which has up to 180 cars on track.’ 

Know when to push, and when to save the car

NT: 

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‘The mentally challenging aspect is the strategy side. If you go out at night, you’re probably going to have to do three stints on a set of tyres. You don’t want to leave too much on the table but you don’t want to take too much life out of them. It’s hard to gauge, how much can you push? 

‘[In the current Hypercars], if you drive flat out for six hours, the car will be destroyed and you won’t be as quick or the next 18 hours. In the [older] LMP1 cars, we were flat-out more of the time: they couldn't take the kerbs. These Hypercars and LMDh cars can take the load, so they can use the kerbs [which puts more wear through the car].

‘Everything wears out: the bodywork, through stone damage, the oil in the dampers… We have engineers and strategists constantly calculating, “is it worth taking 20 seconds to change the nose of the car?”’

Try and get some sleep

James Calado:

‘When you’ve done all you can, just have to switch off the phone and iPad and try and sleep. You’re destroyed after Le Mans for about a week – not physically, mentally.’

AG:

‘Mentally I was completely destroyed after Le Mans. Physically, not really – but mentally, it really kills you. You don’t sleep, then you’re back in the car. You never rest your mind.’

Sometimes you need a bit of luck

Nicklas Nielsen: 

‘Last year it was a stone [in the radiator] that destroyed our race. You need a race without any mistakes, without any bad luck. There are so many things that can happen.’

And when it all works out? 

NT: 

‘Winning Le Mans changed my life. It’s the biggest single event you can win in this sport.’

NN: 

‘Does winning Le Mans mean more than winning a championship… Yeah, it does. We want to win the championship, but – of course we want to win Le Mans.’

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