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Tales of triumphs and troubles: IndyCar drivers at Le Mans 2024

Written by Dan Jones

Credit: Chris Jones

The dust has only just settled on the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year, and while some drivers shone over the course of the 24-hour race, others had a weekend to forget. DIVEBOMB reviews the story of the IndyCar drivers, past and present, and their performance in the iconic race.

Álex Palou - #2 Cadillac Racing, Hypercar - 7th

Credit: Javier Jimenez

2024 signified Álex Palou's maiden appearance at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, jumping across the pond with his IndyCar team, Chip Ganassi Racing, alongside Alex Lynn and Earl Bamber. With the news that IndyCar's round at World Wide Technology Raceway will clash with the Le Mans 24 Hour in 2025, Palou stated his wishes for the calendar being 'provisional,' as he may not return to the race for several years.

But Palou can be mighty proud of his maiden appearance at Le Mans, his #2 entry finishing the best of the Cadillac entries in seventh. Palou would first take the car four hours in, having to wheel the entry during the worst of the wet conditions, holding the three hour graveyard shift behind the safety car in the middle of the night. Palou would occupy the car for just over eight-and-a-half hours, more than regular drivers, Bamber and Lynn.

And the #2 car would go off-sequence for the majority of the race, meaning Palou would lead at various points, and held the fastest lap for a portion of the race - which would end up being the second fastest lap all day. Cadillac being so off-strategy made it difficult to assess against the competition, but Palou was trusted with the all-important final stint, and to bring the car home safely, when Cadillac pitted from the lead in the final cycle of stops. A podium may have only been prevented from the rain.

Their bold strategy would not work out, the team not having the performance of the Ferrari's, Porsche's or Toyota's, but Palou has clearly gained a strong reputation from his outing at the race, being chosen over an endurance veteran in Bamber in the final stint, matching his seamless ability to settle into a new car very quickly. Palou would bring his #2 car home in seventh place, the car's best finish of the season.

Callum Ilott - #12 Jota Sport, Hypercar - 8th

Credit: Javier Jimenez

One of the biggest stories across the Le Mans period was the one of the #12 Jota Sport, driven by Callum Ilott, Norman Nato and Will Stevens.

And it started before the race, Ilott shunting the car on Wednesday evening. The damage so bad, that Jota were forced to get a replacement tub. Building one takes over three weeks, in cases, up to a month, and the team were forced to do it in less than 36 hours. A quick shakedown at the local airfield was all they would have before the car would go to warmup, just ahead of the grueling 24 hours.

However, the team would run in the top ten for the majority, in a car that didn't fully resemble the one that Ilott had crashed on Wednesday. After a pretty disastrous opening few laps, the car was as low as 20th, as the drivers struggled to adapt to the modified Porsche.

The car would receive a penalty overnight for a slow zone infringement when in Stevens' hands. But after all the trials and tribulations, excellent strategy calls and teamwork meant that despite needing a completely new tub, Jota found themselves in eighth place, and even more impressively, on the lead lap at the end of the 24 hours, a mighty impressive achievement.

Romain Grosjean - #19 Lamborghini Iron Lynx, Hypercar - 13th

Credit: Julien Delfosse

Some 14 years after Romain Grosjean's first Le Mans appearance, his return coincided with Lamborghini, the team he also races in the endurance rounds with in the IMSA SportsCar Championship, as they brought two cars for their Le Mans assault, Grosjean lining up alongside Matteo Cairoli and Andrea Caldarelli in the #19 car.

And it would be a quiet affair for Grosjean and Lamborghini, but in some ways, that's exactly what the team wanted. The goal was to see the chequered flag at the end of 24 hours, and build upward from there in future years, and that's exactly what Lamborghini did with both cars.

Similarly to Palou, Grosjean would also be left with the graveyard stint in the middle of the night, the weather being so poor, it was leaking through the Lamborghini's roof at times. Grosjean would have a quiet affair himself, being in the car for 6 hours and 35 minutes. Caldarelli, for comparison, did 10 hours and 43 minutes in the car.

It wouldn't be spectacular, but it would be solid, exactly what Grosjean and Lamborghini needed.

Scott Dixon - #3 Cadillac Racing, Hypercar - DNF

Credit: Julien Delfosse

Scott Dixon's sixth attempt at the Le Mans 24 Hour would be the first time the Kiwi would fail to see the chequered flag after mechanical issues prevented him, as well as ex-IndyCar driver, Sébastien Bourdais, and Renger van der Zande from being in contention for a good result.

The #3 Cadillac had been running in the top 10 for the majority of the day, Bourdais in the lead pack in the opening stages. The team opted to pit when the rain first came, which cycled the entry down the order early on. This wasn't helped when van der Zande hit the barrier at the end of the first sector on the approach to Tertre Rouge, forcing the team to assess the damage - moments after he had pitted.

Bourdais would lose the car approximately six hours in when he found himself in the gravel at Indianapolis on his outlap. The car would receive a drive-through penalty in the morning for speeding under full-course yellow. And with six hours to go, Dixon pulled over to the side of the circuit with a mechanical problem, quite literally limping back to the pits in seventh gear, the issue believed to be some sort of oil leak. This issue would end Dixon and co's day early, unable to match the impressive fourth place achieved last year.

Dixon would occupy the car for just over five hours until the car suffered it's mechanical problem which would bring an end to their day.

Nolan Siegel - #22 United Autosports, LMP2 - 1st

Credit: Javier Jimenez

It would be a triumphant day for young Nolan Siegel, as he won in class, on his first appearance at the Le Mans 24 Hour, racing for Zak Brown's United Autosports team, alongside fellow rookie, Bijoy Garg, and LMP2 veteran, Oliver Jarvis.

The car would be consistently strong throughout the day, running in the leading pack for the course of the 24 hours. Siegel would first take the car two-and-a-half hours in, and would be individually impressive throughout, being the second-fastest LMP2 driver in those phases of the race, no surprise to anyone who's followed his career in sportscars to date.

It wouldn't be without trouble though, Siegel would receive a drive-through penalty after colliding with the #33 car. However, Siegel and the team would recover well, putting the car in exactly the right position for endurance supremo, Oliver Jarvis to take the helm and bring the car to the flag for an excellent victory.

Siegel would occupy the car for just over eight hours, and did an excellent job in setting Jarvis up for the final stint. Siegel's week has only since got better following the news he has signed a multi-year deal with Arrow McLaren.

Kyffin Simpson - #24 Nielsen Racing, LMP2 - 11th

Credit: Nielsen Racing via X

Fellow 19-year-old, Kyffin Simpson, wouldn't have quite as much luck as Siegel in his maiden Le Mans appearance, his #24 entry having a tumultuous day, alongside Fabio Scherer and David Heinemeier Hansson, the entry finishing 11th in class, some six laps down from Siegel's race-winning machine.

The car would consistently stay around the top five in class in the opening eight hours, but would first hit trouble as night fell. The car, being piloted by Hansson, and was not running second, tangled with the #77 LMGT3 car, which saw itself beached in the gravel, having to be craned away at the esses. It would recieve a stop-go penalty to add insult to injury.

Hansson would spin the car out again about 15 minutes later. It wouldn't get any better when Simpson was driving as he collided with another car when exiting the pits, sending him into the barrier with a damaged right-rear and rear wing.

It would be a messy event for the #24 entry, with Simpson in the car for nine hours of the day. Multiple collisions and spins put them out of what was a good position heading into nightfall. Simpson will gain great experience from his maiden Le Mans, but will want to put this one behind him.

Colin Braun - #45 CrowdStrike Racing by APR, LMP2 - DNF

Credit: APRacingTeam via X

2024 would signify Braun's third attempt at the Le Mans 24 Hour, but this will be the most frustrating one yet - Braun, alongside Nicky Catsburg and George Kurtz, forced to retire after they lost a wheel mid-way through the race, their day coming to an end after just 149 laps.

The #45 entry would be pretty anonymous for the majority of the race, however 10 hours in the car would be spotted limping around the Circuit de la Sarthe on three wheels, before coming to a stop completely which caused a slow zone. The retirement was confirmed a few hours later in a miserable day for the team.

Braun will head back to the States to continue his usual IMSA duties, with him still having the goal of doing more IndyCar races later in the season.

The familiar faces from the past

In the #3 Cadillac, Dixon was joined by Sébastian Bourdais, who as mentioned, saw their day cut early due to a mechanical issue.

And it wouldn't be better for Felipe Nasr who has floated around IndyCar for several years. Ironically, he had a crash at Indianapolis, 14 hours in, on an outlap after he had just pitted for slicks - that saw the end of his day in the #4 Porsche Penske Motorsport.

It wouldn't be any better for Ben Hanley either in the #23 United Autosports entry. Ben Keating spun the car in the first few hours, beaching it in the gravel, before spinning again at the final corner a few hours later. Hanley would be spun by a GT3 car in the meantime and the car would receive two drive-throughs for safety car and slow zone infringements. Respectably though, it did finish, albeit last of the LMP2's and 25 laps time with an alternator problem.

Things would be every so slightly better for Réne Binder. Funnily enough, Binder's #33 car was the one that Nolan Siegel collided with that earned the Californian a penalty in the race. The car would finish 7th in class, 3rd in the Pro-Am class, two laps down.

In the LMGT3 class, Jack Hawksworth's #87 car would run consistently in the top five throughout the 24 Hours, and lead about 90 minutes in, and again seven hours in. The car would receive a 10 second penalty late on with about five hours left for contact with the #31. However, with just hours left to go, chasing down a podium, Hawksworth bonnet would completely open, leaving him with no visibility and forcing him to limp back to the pits. The unfortunate incident dropped them to 10th.

It would be pretty disastrous for Franck Perera too, his #60 Iron Lynx teammate, Claudio Schiavone having a major crash on the exit of the second chicane, which effectively ended the team's day, although they were able to get the car back out - just completely out of contention.


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