Potential Turns into Heartbreak at the 24 Hour of Le Mans

The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the most prestigious race in automotive history and presents one of the hardest challenges a driver may have the privilege to face in their racing career. Over the past week, DK's Managing Director and Lead Acquisition Consultant, James Cottingham, has been at La Sarthe, fulfilling a lifelong dream of competing at the infamous French endurance race.

2024 Marks a return for McLaren to Le Mans, 29 years after taking victory on their debut in 1995. In the #59 United Autosports McLaren, James shared the drive with Nicholas Costa and Gregoire Saucy. On Saturday afternoon, the McLaren LMGT3 crew came out of the traps fighting, with the #59 and #95 storming up through the ranks from P11 and P19 respectively. In the ninth hour, Nico Pino took the lead of the race in the #95 before Le Mans rookie Gregoire Saucy took over in the #59 to take the lead and continued to race at the front throughout the night. Heavy rain created treacherous driving conditions, leading to multiple lengthy safety car periods. But as daylight broke and the track began to dry, the team valiantly continued to vie for a podium finish.

However, at the ninetieth hour, the car heartbreakingly stopped on track. The #95 came into the garage with a suspected drivetrain issue after running in the top three consistently through Sunday morning – but after further investigation, it was deemed the issue could not be fixed in time and the car was retired. Shortly after, the #59 McLaren LMGT3 EVO, which was running in podium contention after leading the race, stopped on track. United Autosports and McLaren Automotive will continue to investigate the issue fully.

James, after the race, stated : “Endurance racing is tough. And I’ve learnt that in every 10 hour plus race I have done. At the 18 hour mark I thought everything was looking good - the car was solid, my drive time was done … the guys [Gregoire and Nicolas] know what they’re doing, we’re being sensible and we looked good. I could see top-four finishes on the cards for both cars. In the race, the car had run faultlessly so when it pulled over on the side of the track, I was shocked. Now, I am devastated. Everyone had worked so hard and it’s been such a professional approach by everyone in the team. The way United Autosports has gone about it, including the nutritionist, physios and everyone … we put everything into it. We didn’t leave any stone unturned. But we’ve had a race-ending failure. But I’ve enjoyed every single minute of the race, every single minute of driving. It’s just so gutting to not be there at the end.” Everyone had worked so hard, and it's been such a professional approach by everyone in the team. We didn't leave any stone unturned. But we've had a race-ending failure. I've enjoyed every minute of the race; it's so gutting not to be there at the end.

Nicolas Costa: “We had an interesting race, especially considering we were all Le Mans rookies in the #59! The entire crew did an amazing job, the engineers, mechanics, everyone worked so hard – harder than us drivers! We led the race numerous times which was amazing. We deserved a better result but that’s racing sometimes and we have to accept it even though it’s frustrating. We’ll use it as positive energy for Brazil.”

Grégoire Saucy: “Everyone is sad because the entire team did a mega job for this race. It’s my first Le Mans 24. It was an incredible experience for me. I took the race start and we led at night. Now we focus and work towards the remaining WEC races … but I hope I get the opportunity to come back here next year.”

Richard Dean, United Autosports CEO: “A knife edge race from start to finish. Twenty four hour races aren’t meant to be easy but when you throw in the weather and the track conditions, it was very tough. There was so much going on during the race. In LMGT3, we put up a strong fight with established LMGT3 teams and manufacturers. The retirements were disappointing but I’m super proud of them. All of the McLaren and United Autosports team can be really proud and the LMGT3 drivers have been an absolute dream to work with.”

Michael Leiters, Chief Executive Officer, McLaren Automotive: “To see the United Autosports McLaren GT3 EVOs running first and second after 125 laps of everything Le Mans can throw at them, including changeable weather conditions, just reconfirms we have the performance and determination to win. We can take many positives from our return to Le Mans and we will build on this strong performance.”

The next race for James Cottingham and the #59 United Autosports McLaren LMGT3 is the 6 Hours of Sao Paolo, which takes place the weekend of the 13th July 2024 – round five of eight in the 2024 FIA World Endurance Championship.

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