After a 2020 edition disputed behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic and that of 2021 in front of only 50,000 spectators (20% of the usual number), the stands of the Sarthe circuit were, this year, filled to the brim for the 90th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 June 2022.

But if the atmosphere was different in the stands, on the track nothing has changed, or almost. For the fifth time in a row, Toyota has won the Le Mans classic, again achieving the double (as in 2018, 2019 and 2021) in the hypercar category.

Contrary to the previous edition, however, it was the crew of the Toyota n° 8 of Switzerland’s Sébastien Buemi, the Japanese Ryo Hirakawa and the New Zealander Brendon Hartley who finished ahead of the Toyota n° 7 of Briton Mike Conway, of Japanese Kamui Kobayashi and Argentinian José Maria Lopez, two minutes ahead of the finish Sunday at 4 p.m.

The American team Glickenhaus completed the podium thanks to crew number 709 made up of Australian Ryan Briscoe, Briton Richard Westbrook and Frenchman Franck Mailleux, five laps behind the Toyota n°8.

Alpine, never in the game

On the other hand, the French Alpine team had a gloomy weekend. Overtaken from the start by the two Glickenhaus, the No. 36 crew of Brazilian André Negrao and Frenchmen Matthieu Vaxivière and Nicolas Lapierre was already seven laps behind the leader on Saturday at 10 p.m. after two pit stops in less than one hour. half an hour, following a clutch problem.

Worse, an accident occurred on Sunday morning around 9 a.m.: Matthieu Vaxivière lost control of his vehicle at the entrance to a bend while trying to overtake a (slower) GT car, ending up against the protective barrier. After again giving up time in the pits to make repairs, the Alpine finally finished in 23rd place, 18 laps behind the winner.

Despite a spin from Sébastien Buemi shortly before 11 p.m. on Saturday and a puncture on Sunday around 7:30 a.m., still with the Swiss driver at the wheel, the Toyota n°8 controlled the race by demonstrating all its reliability.

At 33, Mr. Buemi joins Frenchman Yannick Dalmas, Belgian Olivier Gendebien and Frenchman Henri Pescarolo in the closed circle of quadruple winners of the Le Mans classic; the record for the number of victories among pilots remaining in the possession of Dane Tom Kristensen (nine successes).

“We’re happy, we didn’t have a problem. It’s incredible. It’s perfect. A great day, “said the native of the canton of Vaud, phlegmatically, on arrival at the microphone of L’Equipe.

In the second category of vehicles called “LMP2” (for “Le Mans prototype 2”), the JOTA n°38 won ahead of the Prema n°9 and the JOTA n°28. Note the ninth place for Sébastien Ogier , the eight-time world rally champion, who took part in the mythical endurance race for the first time, in the No. 1 crew of Richard Mille Racing.

In the third category, “LM GTE Pro” (for “Le Mans Grand Touring Endurance”), the #91 Porsche finished ahead of two Ferraris, #51 and #52, at the end of a race at twists.

Barely the 2022 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans finished, the next one is already particularly awaited and not only because it will be that of the centenary. 2023 will also mark the return of the big teams: Peugeot, Porsche, Ferrari or even Cadillac will increase competition in the hypercar category.