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June 22, 2024

The 24 hours of Le Mans delivers the Ultimate test

As the chequered flag fell at Circuit de la Sarthe and the cars powered across the finish line, teams, drivers and spectators witnessed the finale of one of the most competitive races in the history of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. There was exhilarating racing from start to finish and as the Rolex clock counted down the closing seconds on Sunday 16 June, it was the #50 Ferrari AF Corse 499P who conquered the demanding conditions to secure the top spot on the new podium. Championing the relentless quest for excellence, Rolex has supported the 24 Hours of Le Mans as the Exclusive Major Partner and Official Timepiece since 2001.

Tom Kristensen, a Rolex Testimonee and record nine-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, reflected on the action after the contest: “What a fantastic race. There was a constant battle for first place, with the leader changing hourly and the difficult weather conditions providing additional entertainment. It’s this level of competition that really energizes the category. Endurance racing is in a golden era and it’s only going to get better. I look to the future with bright eyes and almost wish I could join them.”

On Saturday 15 June at 4 p.m. local time, the 62-car field set off on an adrenaline-fuelled 24-hour journey. Teams faced additional challenges from the outset, with this year’s restrictions on tyre warmers impacting the start of the race and pit-stop strategies. Teams encountered strong winds, unseasonably low temperatures and a slippery track, all adding to the pressure of the twice-around-the-clock spectacle and playing part in the mixed fortunes for many. Through the early hours of Sunday, the roar of engines diminished to a rumble as the yellow flag was waved. When daylight came, all three categories continued to face tense traffic and numerous interruptions.

The wheel-to-wheel racing between Ferrari, Porsche and Toyota went to the final moments. Ultimately, Ferrari made headlines with a double podium as the #51 Ferrari AF Corse 499P placed third overall. Taking a well-deserved second place was the #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing GR010 – Hybrid, who were only a matter of seconds behind the leading Ferrari until the final hour. Showcasing long-term commitments, symbolic of Rolex’s pioneering endeavours, crowds not only witnessed groundbreaking racing on the track, but also watched landmark innovation throughout the weekend. Circuit de la Sarthe provided the perfect test for the Mission H24 prototype vehicle premiere – representing the advancements in technology and the importance endurance racing plays in the automotive industry.

Rolex Testimonee and FIA Formula 1® Drivers’ World Champion Jenson Button contested this year’s race driving the #38 Hertz Team JOTA Porsche 963. Button and his team finished ninth, after starting 14th, in one of the most ambitious fields to date.

He said: ”It really felt like anyone could have won, it’s the most competitive it has ever been. This is one of the reasons I love the Hypercar category. As we have seen from the weekend, there were many teams that had the chance to win, but things go wrong and you need luck on your side with the constantly changing conditions.”

Crowds flooded the track after the race to celebrate the 11-time overall winners. Having truly earned their place in history, the #50 team stepped onto the new 24 Hours of Le Mans podium, unveiled just days before the event began, to lift the 2024 trophy. In recognition of their unwavering dedication and perseverance, Rolex presented each of the winning drivers with a specially engraved Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona, the ultimate accolade in motor sport.

Kristensen said: “What a statement the new podium is with the Rolex branding, it’s watched from the grandstands and on TV across the world with the greatest admiration. Receiving a Rolex Daytona on the podium after displaying such commitment is particularly memorable. When I look at my watch, I don’t just see the time, I reflect on my career and my achievements.”

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