The three Le Mans 24 Hours winners in FIA WEC had their say after a grueling run all-through the week, as Toyota is gracious in defeat.
#51 Ferrari with overall win upon return to WEC along with boss John Elkann –
Alessandro Pier Guidi: “It takes time to grasp what we did. Probably now, we are part of the history of Ferrari, the biggest brand in the world. As an Italian, I have dreamed of driving for this brand since childhood. Now it’s real. We won Le Mans with a red car. It isn’t easy to describe what you feel. It’s a mix of emotions. If you think about how much work there is behind this victory. We worked 24/7. We tried to give our best, but everyone worked non-stop, the engineers and the mechanics, for one year, and the work finally paid off. We knew from the start that reliability would be a key factor. The car was new and the race crazy: the weather was mad, with many slow zones and safety cars. But in the end, Le Mans is always like this. You have to try to stay out of trouble or at least to minimise the mistakes. I think we did quite well.”
James Calado: “It’s an amazing feeling to win this race. The team did an amazing job. The track was amazing, honestly. It feels so special to drive: the balance, the performance, the engine, the way it works were superb. It’s a big thanks to everyone involved in this project to make this happen. I think it shows what Ferrari is made of. Obviously, I’ve won here in GT twice, but this is a bit different. Definitely a different feeling: the attention involved, the Ferrari fans, you can see all the red in every corner. So, a big thanks to all the supporters. I’m very happy.”
Antonio Giovinazzi: “For me and Alessandro it’s an even more special feeling. We first drove this car last July, so to have achieved this result, pole and victory, after just under a year, is undoubtedly fantastic. It was by no means a given that we’d make it, but the entire team and my teammates did a great job, and here we are today. Thanks to Ferrari, who made all this happen. We are back to winning ways after 50 years, and we should be very proud.”
John Elkann: “This has been an unforgettable day that I’d like to dedicate to everyone at Ferrari. After 50 years we have returned to compete in the highest category of endurance racing that has a place at the very heart of our story and that of all motorsport. We’re proud indeed to have taken Italy once again to the top step of the podium at Le Mans, celebrating in the best possible style the centenary of the most important race of its kind in the world.This victory that Antonello Coletta, Amato Ferrari and the entire team, from our mechanics to our drivers, have achieved today in such challenging conditions – because of the 24 hour duration, the unpredictable weather and the impressive strength of our competitors – serves as an example for us all. The emotions they have given to our tifosi on a great day that brings together past, present and future, is also a reminder of the importance of finding the courage and the humility to always improve. Full of enthusiasm and joy, I’d like to thank all our colleagues who have given us this extraordinary victory: a success that we celebrate with all of our tifosi and with our country”.
#34 Inter Europol Competition Oreca 07 – Gibson with LMP2 win and P9 overall –
Kuba Śmiechowski: “The season started months and months before the first race of the year, and we arrived here at Le Mans knowing that we had good speed and we had to stay out of trouble. My teammates did an incredible job to be fast, whatever the conditions. It was to make a mistake when it rained. My teammates, the team did an incredibly Great strategy and teamwork, and I am so grateful to the team.”
Fabio Scherer: “It’s mythical, amazing. The car was great, with good pace and performance. The race for us was amazing, everything worked well and think it’s the result the team deserved! We don’t always get the result that our pace shows. Honestly, after the first stint, I thought my race was over but here, I do not want to speak about my foot, I wish to speak about the team and result. Winning a race like this is like nothing else.”
Albert Costa: “The first podium at Spa was just a starter; I am on a crazy journey with IEC. It’s a new team to me from the start of the season. Here has been amazing! I could not sleep here at Le Mans. First, you want to race here, in whatever category. As good as the team is, it’s always difficult but the team stay calm, and everybody helped through the moments. The most impressive thing for me is the way they are growing, and now, I want to cry, every time I say that we won Le Mans.”
LMGTE Am –
#33 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette win LMGTE Am win and P26 overall –
Nicky Catsburg: “This is the one race that I wanted. Now I have all the big ones, so this is super awesome. Even yesterday afternoon, I didn’t think this was possible. But somehow we made it back to the front. These two guys drove unbelievably fast and all of a sudden we were back in contention and won with a massive lead. It’s an unbelievable feeling. I could see we were very fast. The only really worry was that I didn’t use our Bronze yet. But whenever we put him in the car, he’s just as fast as anyone else. All of a sudden, there was no deficit anymore. It was awesome. I’ve never taken the finish here. I didn’t know it was so super-crazy on the in-lap, so that was nice. That it’s the 100th anniversary makes it special. That it’s the last year of GTE makes it extra special. That it’s the last year of the C8.R makes it extra special. I’m so happy for the whole team because I feel like we should have already won it in the years before. So it’s sweet for this to happen this year.”
Ben Keating: “You can look at all the stats about it being the last year of GTE, the Centenary of Le Mans, the 25tth season of Corvette Racing, an American driver racing an American car with an American team… that even doesn’t do this justice. After the first hour when we had to replace the right-front damper, I thought there was no chance. Even when I went to sleep at midnight angry because we didn’t get our lap back because race control messed up, I thought it was over and I was so mad. To wake up and I think we were running in P4 a few hours later, I was baffled. I didn’t understand how in the world we were there. All of our strategy completely went out the window. We had everything lined up and planned exactly how we were going to do it. Nico got sick and I didn’t plan on doing any driving, and I ended up driving from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. I didn’t plan on doing any driving in the rain, and I ended up having a stint in the rain. Everything got turned on its head. It turned out that it was exactly what we needed to get our laps back. The way we won it is special. To feel like it was out of reach and then watch this team claw back and get victory out defeat’s grasp was really special. It was really nice to feel like I was a part of that. It’s one of those deals where you can look at every member of the team on this win, and you know everyone contributed. That makes it special.”
Nico Varrone: “I have no words even though it’s only just been an hour from the end. It’s just been incredible. Our race basically started two laps down early, but the team was so fast in managing to repair it. We went back out and had great pace and a great car. The Corvette Racing team, the engineers and strategy, my teammates Nicky – he’s a legend and did a lot of stints and was really quick – Ben – even though he’s a Bronze, he was flying – all of GM and Chevrolet, my family and everyone… there are a lot of people involved in this. It’s a dream come true. The team is amazing. The support I get from them is great. It’s like a family here. Every time I jump in the car or when I get out, they’re always there hugging me. Even on the pit stop, they are telling me that I’m doing great. This is really good for a racing driver and for your feelings. It’s great. After the start, I thought it was OK and it’s a long race and we would maybe have a chance. But it was really optimistic to think it would be like this. We are in this position and have to try to manage it and get to the end.”
Toyota’s chief Koji Sato on losing Le Mans –
“In the 100th anniversary year, the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WEC team gave it their all in a Le Mans 24 Hours that created incredible challenges for them to win their sixth straight victory. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to everyone who supported us. Having worked hard for a year with the team, I know many aspects of the team. Kamui spoke with the team on a daily basis and continued to convey the significance of fighting and the importance of teamwork. Mike, Jose, Seb, Brendon, Ryo, and driver Kamui, the drivers pushed themselves as athletes and created a car which could fight for victory. For this day, the mechanics had perfected their work step by step, and practiced pit stops day after day.
“The engineers brilliantly solved the problems that occurred at Le Mans two years ago and last year, and greatly improved the reliability of the car. Together with Morizo, the team faced the challenge also with Uchiyamada, who continued to support Toyota’s challenge in WEC. No matter what the circumstances, I am proud of all the members of the team because it is the result of endless efforts and challenge, without giving up. All were heroes. There may have been some shortcomings in our challenges. But failure only happens to those who try. It takes tremendous courage to challenge beyond the limits. I believe that courage is the driving force behind changing the future. “Be a challenger”. This year’s Le Mans has taught us how to approach the next 100 years. Thank you for all your support. We will continue to fight.”
Here’s how Le Mans 24 Hours panned out
[Note: The story is as per press release]