The 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans (24 Heures du Mans 2010) was the 78th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, also known as the Grand Prix of Endurance. The race took place on 12–13 June 2010 at the Circuit de la Sarthe, Le Mans, France, and was organised by the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO). Fifty-six cars participated in the event, organized into four categories. This race was attended by an estimated 238,850 spectators.
Audi avenged their loss to the Peugeots in the race by winning the 2010 race with the new R15 TDI plus (a revised version of the R15 compared to last year's), relying on reliability rather than overall speed, much so like they did in the 2005 and 2008 race. The Peugeots, with its four 908 HDi FAPs, were favoured to win the race but was plagued with a broken suspension on one of the 908s early in the race and engine-related failures on the other three after sunrise. Audi's victory marked a new overall distance record (breaking the record set back in 1971), as well as marking the 9th time Audi has won the race (in 12 years of racing at Le Mans), tying Ferrari for 2nd all time in terms of number of overall victories by car manufacturer.
Automatic entries to the 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans were granted to teams that performed well in the previous year's 24 Hours of Le Mans, as well as the 2009 seasons of the American Le Mans Series, Le Mans Series, Asian Le Mans Series, FIA GT Championship, and the Petit Le Mans. An automatic invitation was also awarded to the team which accumulated the most points in the Michelin Green X Challenge as part of the Le Mans Series. The award was based on fuel economy of competitors during each event. On 19 November 2009 the ACO published their automatic invitations to 29 teams.
Of the 29 automatic entries awarded, 21 were accepted by their respective teams in February. Teams which did not accept their automatic invitation are denoted in blue.
On 4 February 2010, the ACO released their first official entry list of 55 cars plus ten reserves. A total of 85 entries had been submitted to the ACO. For the first time, all 65 entries (55 entries and 10 reserves) were required to nominate one driver who would be required to participate in the race, although several teams took the opportunity to name their second and third drivers. Teams had until 12 May to complete their full lineup of drivers. A new element to the reserves list for 2010 was that the ten were divided evenly with five LMPs and five GTs. Rather than the first reserve replacing a car of any class, a withdrawing LMP could only be replaced by another LMP and the same applied to GTs.
The first entry to be withdrawn from the list was the Dome LMP1, allowing Pegasus Racing's Norma MP200P-Judd to be promoted. On 6 May, the Team Modena Ferrari entry was withdrawn allowing the No. 88 Felbermayr-Proton Porsche into the race. In a press announcement at the 1000 km of Spa the ACO confirmed the withdrawal of the PK Carsport entry after the car was damaged by a fire at the FIA GT1 RAC Tourist Trophy as well as the dopping of both Pescarolo Sport entries, one under the Sora Racing title. The KSM LMP2, the second Matech Competition Ford, and the second AF Corse Ferrari were all allowed into the entry. On 28 May, the ACO confirmed the completion of an additional pit garage in time for the race. A reserve entry for Race Performance was initially granted before the team was promoted on 2 June to the full entry, increasing the starters to 56.
The 56 field entry included many of the manufacturer teams, most notably in the LMP1 category. Both Peugeot and Audi entered three factory cars, while Peugeot also included a 908 HDi FAP run privately by the Oreca squad. Marc Gené and Alexander Wurz returned in the No. 1 Peugeot as the defending race winners, this time joined by Anthony Davidson. Audi, in an attempt to not repeat from their loss the previous year, heavily modified their Audi R15 TDIs to a plus specification to better combat Peugeot. Aston Martin's entry was downsized from the previous year with just two factory entries, while a third car was privately entered by the Signature-Plus squad. Other major entries in the LMP1 category included a duo of Kolles Audi R10s once again, while Rebellion Racing featured two of the latest Lola coupes. Team Oreca, despite running a Peugeot, also entered one of their 01 chassis with the AIM engine. Former Formula One World Champion Nigel Mansell also brought his own team with a Ginetta-Zytek and partnered with his two sons, Leo and Greg.
The LMP2 category featured the return of Honda to Le Mans for the first time since 1996, with Honda Performance Development's (HPD) ARX-01 chassis being entered by Strakka Racing and Highcroft Racing. Highcroft also made their debut at Le Mans, coming off winning the LMP1 championship in the American Le Mans Series and enlisting 2009 race winner David Brabham as part of their squad. HPD also supplied a RML with their engine, although this was used in the team's Lola chassis instead. OAK Racing provided the only two car team in the category, leading development of the Pescarolo 01 chassis and switching from Mazda to Judd engines. Defending Le Mans Series champions Quifel ASM Team were among two entries utilizing the Ginetta-Zytek chassis.
A mixture of two types of car was entered in the GT1 category, coming either from the new sprint format of the FIA GT1 World Championship or from endurance racing in the Le Mans Series. Young Driver AMR represented the FIA GT1 Aston Martin, while two entries from Matech Competition and a single Marc VDS Racing Team entry brought the new Ford GT to Le Mans for the first time. One of Matech's entries featured a line-up of all Swiss women, the latest in a line of all-female crews at Le Mans. On the endurance side of the card, Larbre Compétition entered their Le Mans Series Saleen while Luc Alphand once again entered two Corvettes. The 2010 race was the final year for the GT1 class at Le Mans.
The GT2 category for 2010 was represented by no less than six different automobile manufacturers. Corvette Racing, multiple champion of the GT1 category, moved to the GT2 category with a new version of the Corvette, while BMW Motorsport returned for the first time since their 1999 victory by entering their M3 model. The two-car entry included the latest in a line of BMW Art Cars at Le Mans with artist Jeff Koons designing the graphics for the No. 79 car. Porsche remained well supported in the category with six cars amongst five teams, while Ferrari had five cars including two-time defending class winner Risi Competizione and AF Corse's No. 95 car which featured former Formula One drivers Jean Alesi and Giancarlo Fisichella. Jaguar also returned to Le Mans in the hands of RSR, while Aston Martin and Spyker were represented by single-car entries.
Class leaders are in bold, the fastest lap for each car is in gray.^
– The No. 82 Risi Competizione Ferrari had its qualifying times disallowed following an infringement discovered in post-qualifying technical inspection.
Although the ACO tried to chop off power from the diesels by reducing the restrictor size and turbo boost, cars managed to run faster than they did in 2009. They were consistent in running much faster than the target 3:30 that ACO had hoped for. The race was won by the #9 Audi R15 TDI plus driven by Mike Rockenfeller, Timo Bernhard, and Romain Dumas as Audi swept the overall race podium to earn their ninth overall victory; it was the fourth time that Audi swept the podium, with the factory Joest team sweeping in 2000 and 2002, as well as three different customer teams for Audi in 2004 (Japanese Team Goh, British Team Veloqx and American Champion Racing). A new overall distance record was also set with the winning car completing 397 laps and covering 5,410.713 km (3,362.061 mi), bettering the distance set in 1971. Two other R15s (all three ran by Joest Racing) also ran longer than the distance set in 1971 (the second place #8 ran one lap behind, 396 laps and 5,397.084 km (3,353.593 mi); the third place #7 ran 394 laps and 5,369.826 km (3,336.655 mi); the 1971 record was 397 laps and 5,335.313 km (3,315.210 mi) over the chicaneless 13.469 km (8.369 mi) configuration, while the current configuration (ran since 2007) is 13.629 km (8.469 mi)).
Timo Bernhard became the first driver since 2005 to complete the Triple Crown of endurance racing (winning the 2003 24 Hours of Daytona and the 2008 12 Hours of Sebring); Marco Werner (ran aboard a Highcroft Racing LMP2 car this year) was the last one to do such feat (won the 1995 24 Hours of Daytona and completed in 2005 with wins in both Sebring and Le Mans). In addition, Rockenfeller became the first driver since 1988 to win both the 24 Hours of Daytona (race report) and the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the same year; Jan Lammers and Andy Wallace of Tom Walkinshaw Racing were the last two drivers to do the same feat.
None of the Peugeots finished the race, despite Peugeot being favourite to win the race. The #3 car retired just two hours into the race with a suspension failure, resulting in a broken chassis tub with Pedro Lamy behind the wheel. Sébastien Bourdais the pole-setter did not even get to drive the car. The #2 Peugeot retired with engine problems in the early morning and an exploding turbocharger while leading the race. This left the sole remaining #1 Peugeot to defend the marque's title. By that time, the #1 Peugeot was running 6th, after dropping 3 laps to replace its alternator. In the closing hour, The #1 Peugeot ran at extremely fast qualifying pace to chase the Audis and eventually overtook the #8 Audi for second position and was on the pace of catching the leading #9 Audi. Unfortunately, the #1 Peugeot also suffered an engine failure, almost identical to its sister car. In a post-race analysis by Peugeot, the #3 damage was the suspension mounting point separating from the carbon fiber tub, causing an undetected structural problem that forced the #3 to retire. The #2 and #1 car, as well as the #4 Oreca that suffered the same engine failure as the other two about slightly over an hour left in the race, was caused by the increased stress of the engines (particularly the connecting rod) that caused the engine failures, partially because of the pace the Audis were going at. In particular this race had perfectly dry weather and therefore no rain would slow the pace of these LMP1, which might have also put too much stress to the Peugeot engines as well as the reason for the distance record.
Two of the Lola-Aston Martin B09/60s also failed to finish the race, while having very little evolutions to the car. #009 succumbed to mechanical failures near the end of the race but still completed more laps than the sixth place #007. The Oreca-01 AIM ranks as the highest petrol-fuelled finisher, in fourth position. The Autocon Motorsports LMP1 entry was the first to exit out of Le Mans after mechanical issues in the first lap of the race; shortly after, Nigel Mansell crashed out his Ginetta-Zytek car after suffering a tire puncture.
Honda, under the guise of HPD, won on their debut in the LMP2 category at Le Mans in the hands of Strakka Racing, and at fifth overall was in fact the best ever result achieved by an LMP2 car. Strakka Racing's strategy was to go completely flat out, while the Patron Highcroft team opted to run at a slightly more conservative pace for the unproven reliability. Ironically it was the Highcroft car that faced reliability issues, and, once running as high as second in class, dropped to the third last classified finisher because of water leak. Strakka had no such issues and they were in fact the 2nd highest overall petrol-fuelled finisher. Second in LMP2, the Pescarolo, was a distant seven laps behind.
Larbre Compétition earned Saleen their first LMGT1 category victory at Le Mans since the car first appeared in 2001, finishing five laps ahead of the Alphand Corvette after having a trouble-free run, and was in fact the only car in the class to come from an endurance-based series. Aston Martin was leading the class but 2 gearbox replacements put them out of contention for the win, came in third in class and the last GT1 to finish. All three Ford GT1s dropped out in the night after mechanical problems. This is the second time that a GT1 winner stayed behind the GT2 field – this also occurred in 2001 under the GTS/GT classes, respectively – while the Saleen completing at a comparatively low 331 laps for this decade.
In GT2 the Flying Lizard Porsche was the first to drop out after a tire puncture before the start. The #82 Risi Competizione Ferrari was quickly recovering from its penalty and at just over two hours was right behind the class leading Corvettes. The class lead was swapped several times until the #82 Ferrari suffered a gearbox failure and would not emerge again. The #63 Corvette suffered reliability issues at night, while the #64 Corvette was in the GT2 lead, running a full two laps ahead of the Felbermayr-Proton Porsche. With less than seven hours to go the #64 lost grip and spun in the Porsche Curves as the #1 Peugeot with Anthony Davidson at the wheel was lapping the Corvette. Emmanuel Collard managed to bring the car back to the pits but subsequent repairs cost them ten laps and soon engine failure followed on the Corvette. Team Felbermayr-Proton took the GT2 lead and a very consistent run saw the team holding onto the lead until the finish. They won the LMGT2 category for Porsche, their first since their 2007 win. The drivers had claimed that their car was about half a second off the Ferrari and Corvette's pace.
At the end of the 24 hours, just 28 cars were able to complete the full race.
Class winners are marked in bold. Cars failing to complete 70% of winner's distance or finish the race (Did Not Finish/DNF) are marked as Not Classified (NC). (Cars marked as NC are moved to the back of the field, regardless of number of laps completed.)