A spectacular helicopter stunt kicked off the 2022 24 Hours of Le Mans, on Saturday, June 11, as a military helicopter circled the stands. Two soldiers then ziplined down to the pre-race ceremony, to deliver the French flag, marking an emotional return to a full crowd at Le Mans, following last year's limited crowd due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It was a stunt that not only wowed fans but also set the tone for an exciting 24 hours that would end with the Toyota Gazoo Racing team taking first place overall, with its number 8 GR010 car, and its fifth consecutive win at Le Mans.
The Toyota GR team battled teams Glickenhaus and Alpine in the Hypercar class but it really wasn't much of a competition, as Toyota was barely challenged by either Hypercar team. In the end, only Toyota and Glickenhaus would make the hypercar podium, with Toyota taking both first and second place, and Glickenhaus taking third. The latter of which marks the first time an American-designed car reached the podium at Le Mans since the Ford GT won overall in 1969.
Toyota's win also marks the fourth Le Mans win for Swiss driver Sébastien Buemi, the third win for New Zealand driver Brandon Hartley, and the first for Japanese driver Ryo Hirakawa.
In the LMP2 (Le Mans Prototype 2) class, team Jota took an early lead and cruised to a class victory, with the number 38 ORECA-Gibson 07 car being driven Antonio Felix da Costa, Roberto Gonzalez, and Will Stevens. Jota also took third place in the LMP2 class, with the number 28 car, driven by Ed Jones, Jonathan Aberdeinn, and Oliver Rasmussen.
In the LM GTE Pro class, tragedy struck the Corvette Racing team, as both cars failed to finish the race, after comfortably leading their class. The number 63 Corvette had its left rear suspension fail dramatically, causing it to retire. Then, later on in the race, the number 64 Corvette, driven by Alexander Sims at the time, was clipped by Francois Perrodo in his LMP2 car, sending Sim's Corvette into the barrier and retiring the car from the race.
Following the hit, Perrodo felt so horribly about clipping Sims' Corvette, especially considering they were racing in different classes, that he immediately made his way to the Corvette team's paddock to apologize in person. "I am sorry, guys. There are no words," said Perrodo, according to Eurosport. The Corvette team was reportedly was thankful for Perrodo's apology and it was said to be a touching moment between both teams.
Due to both Corvettes retiring from the race, the number 91 Porsche 911 RSR 19, from the Porsche GT Team, took the last-ever GTE Pro class win. Two Ferrari 488 GTE Evos, the number 51 and 52 cars, took second and third place, respectively, for the AF Corse team.
There was a celebrity-driver appearance in the LM GTE AM class, as actor Michael Fassbender raced for the Proton Competition team, in a Porsche 911 RSR 19. However, Fassbender's team wouldn't reach the podium in the GTE AM class. Instead, the number 33 Aston Martin Vantage AMR would win the GTE AM class for team TF Sport.
The story of the day, though, was of the Toyota's dominance. The Gazoo Racing cars were barely challenged by even their Hypercar class rivals. Naysayers will complain about the lack of real competition, with only two other teams in the Hypercar class, however, few critics argued Audi's dominant run at Le Mans despite its own lack of competition years ago. Toyota has been on a roll at Le Mans, winning overall for the past four years, and both its engineers and drivers deserves immense credit for their continued success.