Emotional rollercoaster at Le Mans: #31 BMW M4 GT3 on the LMGT3 podium.

2024 24 Hours of Le Mans
2024 24 Hours of Le Mans

BMW M Motorsport experienced the full range of emotions that this legendary event has to offer during its comeback in the top class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (FRA) after 25 years.

After a turbulent race under challenging weather conditions, Augusto Farfus (BRA), Sean Gelael (INA), and Darren Leung (GBR) in the Team WRT #31 BMW M4 GT3 celebrated second place on the LMGT3 podium. It was the first time since 2011 that a BMW crew has celebrated on the podium at Le Mans.

In the Hypercar class, the #15 BMW M Hybrid V8 and the #20 BMW M Hybrid V8 Art Car had strong pace but were – like the #46 BMW M4 GT3 – taken out of the race by accidents.

BMW M Motorsport celebrated its return to the mecca of endurance racing with an extensive programme for fans and guests. The focus was on the 20th BMW Art Car, the #20 BMW M Hybrid V8 designed by artist Julie Mehretu, and on the sporting performance of BMW M Team WRT, which is fielding two Hypercars and two LMGT3 cars at Le Mans and throughout the FIA World Endurance Championship (FIA WEC) season.

A spectacular week began with scrutineering in the city centre and ended on Sunday after 24 turbulent racing hours with a podium for the #31 BMW M4 GT3 in the LMGT3 category. Farfus, Gelael, and Leung maintained their composure despite adverse weather conditions including occasional heavy rain showers that even led to a multi-hour safety car period during the night. They made no mistakes and were rewarded with second place. The trio, which won the 6 Hours of Imola (ITA) earlier this season, is the first BMW crew since 2011 to make it onto the podium at Le Mans. The sister #46 car, driven by Maxime Martin (BEL), Valentino Rossi (ITA), and Ahmad Al Harthy (OMA), was very well placed in the race for the LMGT3 victory before Al Harthy slid into the track barrier on a wet track during the night.

In the Hypercar class, both car crews, after strong pace in all sessions, could not fulfil hopes for top places. The #15 BMW M Hybrid V8, which had made it to Hyperpole thanks to Dries Vanthoor’s (BEL) fastest qualifying time, retired after a severe accident on Saturday evening. Vanthoor was pushed off the track by a Ferrari at around 300 km/h on the straight and hit the track barrier hard. Fortunately, Vanthoor was unharmed, but the race was over for the car, which had been making its way back into the top ten after an early spin. The #20 BMW M Hybrid V8 Art Car had also fought its way into the top ten from 16th on the grid when Robin Frijns (NED) lost control and crashed into the tyre barriers. To honour the Art Car project and reward the WRT team for their hard work, the car returned to the track shortly before the end after a long repair break and crossed the finish line.

Franciscus van Meel (CEO of BMW M GmbH): “It was a very emotional weekend for the entire BMW M community. There were many ups and downs, but that has only brought us all closer together. The first hours of the race were difficult with mistakes and accidents, and we quickly lost three of our four cars. With united strength, however, we got the #20 BMW M Hybrid V8 Art Car back on track so it could resume the race at the end and cross the finish line. For the #31 BMW M4 GT3, there was second place in the end. It was the first podium for BMW at Le Mans since 2011. That was a conciliatory end on the sporting side. On the customer and community side, we had great experiences with the new BMW M5 in the Closed Room as well as with the new BMW M2 update and the BMW M4 CS. All in all, we experienced great moments together, it was a great event.”

Andreas Roos (Head of BMW M Motorsport): “The 24 Hours of Le Mans 2024 were definitely a rollercoaster of emotions. We had a great start with first place for the #15 BMW M Hybrid V8 in qualifying. Also, in the race itself, we had a good start, but unfortunately, we then made mistakes, especially in the first hours, where we lost the our Hypercars’ good positions. However, we fought back with one car, number 15, into the leading group. Unfortunately, there was an unavoidable accident in which Dries Vanthoor was hit at high speed. Fortunately, Dries was unharmed, and that was the most important thing. On the GT3 side, the race was especially difficult at night due to the varying weather conditions. Unfortunately, we also lost the #46 due to an accident but the #31 fought its way back to the top with a strong team performance. We raced for the win until the end and finished second. It was a great debut for our BMW M4 GT3 at the 24-hour race at Le Mans. Many thanks for the huge effort that BMW M Team WRT, all drivers, BMW M Motorsport, and all participants have made here.”

Vincent Vosse (Team Principal BMW M Team WRT): “I am not at all disappointed with our performance with the Hypercars, but with the results. Somehow it was not our weekend. After we lost the #46 in the LMGT3 class, all our hopes were on number 31. They did an incredible job – drivers, mechanics, and engineers. They fought very hard, and we finished second after 24 hours. That is a great success.”

Augusto Farfus (#31 BMW M4 GT3): “I think if we look at how our performance was at the start of the race and where we finished, we have a lot of reasons to celebrate. It shows how important it is to have an incredible team, and that good processes within a team lead to good results. We were the last BMW in the field and we brought home the podium. That is the deserved reward for everyone at Team WRT and BMW. We are very close to the lead in the championship, so we remain focused and set our sights on winning the title.”

Sean Gelael (#31 BMW M4 GT3): “Le Mans is always a very special event with its atmosphere, history, and more than 300,000 spectators. It’s great to be part of the fantastic BMW and WRT family that works tirelessly so that we can be successful. We made the most of the performance available to us this weekend. We fought for the win and in the end achieved a good second place. We are happy to take that.”

Darren Leung (#31 BMW M4 GT3): “This is something very special. If someone had told me at the beginning of the weekend that we would finish second, I would have been very surprised. This is the result of good teamwork, good strategy, good people on the car – and the support of a manufacturer like BMW that takes the risk of employing a relative newcomer like me. Such successes as we’ve had this season are flattering at first, but they also raise one’s own expectations. Now I want to win the world championship.”

Marco Wittmann (#15 BMW M Hybrid V8): “Being taken out of the race by such an accident is very disappointing. The most important thing is that Dries was not injured because such a crash at around 300 km/h is extremely dangerous and can have much worse consequences. At that point in the race, after my mistake in the opening phase, we had already fought our way back into the top-ten and were doing well. Then, after many weeks of intensive preparation, to be essentially out before midnight with both Hypercars is, of course, extremely frustrating for the entire team. What remains for me are the impressions of this unique Le Mans vibe, this incredible atmosphere at this event, which I was able to experience for the first time.”

René Rast (#20 BMW M Hybrid V8): “Being at Le Mans is always the highlight of the year. For me, it was a very special honour to start as a driver of the #20 BMW M Hybrid V8 Art Car. The parade on Friday was as fantastically crazy as every year. From a sporting perspective, the race result was, of course, anything but satisfactory, as we had expected much more. We simply didn’t implement it well and made too many mistakes. We need to improve on that.”

Valentino Rossi (#46 BMW M4 GT3): “In the first part of the race, we were very competitive. We were able to make up many positions thanks to good strategy and strong pace. We led the race for two to three hours, and I really enjoyed driving in first place. Unfortunately, the conditions then worsened, and Ahmad made a mistake with slicks on a wet track, which forced us to retire. That is a shame.”

BMW 2024 Le Mans Photo Gallery

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