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Who’s the most successful manufacturer at Le Mans? Porsche, Toyota & more

The Le Mans 24 Hours is the world's toughest endurance race and an attractive proposition to manufacturers seeking to showcase their speed and reliability. But who has the most wins?

Who’s the most successful manufacturer at Le Mans? Porsche, Toyota & more

Winning the gruelling Le Mans 24 Hours has been one of the big goals for manufacturers since the race was first run in 1923.

Many have tried and failed, while others have been able to forge fine reputations off the back of success in endurance racing’s greatest race.

Toyota is the current master and is gunning for victory number four in the upcoming 2021 edition, but it has a long way to go before it troubles the marques at the top of the list when it comes to outright wins…

Porsche

Kiwis Hartley and Bamber joined Bernhard to take advantage of more Toyota woe in Porsche's most recent win in 2017

Kiwis Hartley and Bamber joined Bernhard to take advantage of more Toyota woe in Porsche's most recent win in 2017

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Wins: 19 (1970-71, 1976-77, 1979, 1981-87, 1994, 1996-98, 2015-17)

It would be hard to argue against Porsche being the greatest Le Mans constructor of all time. Not only has it more overall wins than any other, it has also produced some of the finest sportscars and has taken many class successes too.

The German firm first appeared at the 24 Hours in 1951 (the 356 winning its class) and soon became a contender in the smaller-engined categories, punching above its weight. In 1955 Porsche took 4-5-6 overall as it dominated the 1500cc class with the 550 RS Spyder, while the first outright podium came in 1958 courtesy of the 718 RSK.

That trend continued into the 1960s, but new regulations for 1968 should have played into Porsche’s hands. That year it was defeated in the championship and at Le Mans by the ageing JW Automotive Engineering Gulf Ford GT40s. The 908 was the car to beat in 1969, but still Porsche lost out at Le Mans as Jacky Ickx defeated Hans Herrmann in a dramatic finish.

Once developed, Porsche’s mighty 917 became the sportscar racing benchmark and it finally delivered a Le Mans win, Richard Attwood and Herrmann claiming victory in the appallingly wet 1970 race.

The 917 did it again the following year – setting a distance record that would stand until 2010 – before being outlawed.

Porsche briefly took a back seat, though continued filling the GT classes, before the 936 became the first turbocharged car to win Le Mans in 1976. The 936 would win again in 1977 and 1981, with the Kremer-developed 935 K3 stepping up in 1979 when the sports-prototypes failed.

936 with engines originally intended to race in Porsche's mothballed IndyCar programme was rolled out of the museum for Bell and Ickx in 1981

936 with engines originally intended to race in Porsche's mothballed IndyCar programme was rolled out of the museum for Bell and Ickx in 1981

Photo by: Motorsport Images

The ground-effect 956 and its successor the 962 became the benchmark of the new Group C regulations that arrived in 1982. The works 956s finished 1-2-3 on the car’s Le Mans debut that year and, with privateer versions filling the grid, Porsche had nine cars in the top 10 in 1983.

Even as the challenge from Jaguar and then Sauber-Mercedes grew, Porsche remained a force at Le Mans and it’s run of seven consecutive successes only came to an and after an epic battle with Jaguar in 1988.

A change of regulations provided another opportunity as Porsche once again found a chink in the rules by homologating the Dauer 962 ‘road car’ as a GT. The result was 1-3 when the Toyota challenge hit trouble in the 1994 race.

It’s perhaps generous to include the two TWR Porsche WSC95 victories in 1996 and 1997 in the list, given they were based on Jaguars and run by Joest against the factory GTs. But Porsche had developed the car and it was Porsche powered. The GT1-98 completed an odd-hat-trick in 1998 when, once again, the impressive Toyota effort wilted.

Porsche took time away from the top class at the start of the 21st century, allowing Volkswagen Group sister brand Audi to make significant inroads to its record. But Porsche returned with the LMP1 919 Hybrid in 2014 and duly stamped its authority on sportscar racing once again, taking three consecutive Le Mans wins in 2015-17 before again stepping aside.

Audi

Heavy rain couldn't halt the Audi juggernaut in 2001 as Kristensen, Biela and Pirro claimed their second win on the trot

Heavy rain couldn't halt the Audi juggernaut in 2001 as Kristensen, Biela and Pirro claimed their second win on the trot

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Wins: 13 (2000-02, 2004-8, 2010-14)

Audi’s Le Mans wins all came in one incredible period. More famous for its exploits in rallying and touring cars, Audi headed to Le Mans at the height of the manufacturer boom at the race in 1999. The open-topped R8Rs were outpaced but finished third and fourth, and the legendary R8 arrived for 2000.

Sadly, most of the opposition was gone, but a 1-2-3 was the start of a fantastic run for the R8. Between 2000 and 2005 the R8 was only beaten at Le Mans once, by the related Bentley programme, and two of those successes came in the hands of privateers.

Audi headed onto new ground with the LMP1 R10 TDI, which became the first diesel-powered car to win the 24 Hours in 2006. It won again in 2007 and then took a hat-trick against the odds in 2008 despite being outpaced in the dry by the Peugeot opposition.

Peugeot finally got its LMP1 Le Mans success in 2009 but failed in dramatic style the following year. That allowed Audi to take its ninth victory, this time with the R15-plus, matching Ferrari’s tally and breaking Porsche’s distance record that stretched back to 1971.

The R18 TDI beat the best Peugeot by just 13.9 seconds in 2011 and, after Peugeot’s withdrawal and the arrival of Toyota, Audi kept on winning. Its run finally came to an end in 2015, when Porsche returned to its triumphant ways at both Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship, and Audi withdrew at the end of 2016.

Ferrari

Pictured here in 1958, Gendebien won four times in a Ferrari and was the most successful driver of his era

Pictured here in 1958, Gendebien won four times in a Ferrari and was the most successful driver of his era

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Wins: 9 (1949, 1954, 1958, 1960-65)

It’s remarkable that Ferrari has not even contested the top class at Le Mans for nearly 50 years and yet is still third on this list, such was its level of success in its early days. Ferrari was a new constructor when it first contested the 24 Hours in 1949 but won on its debut largely thanks to the efforts of Luigi Chinetti in Lord Selsdon’s 166 MM.

Despite some big-engined contenders and multiple world sportscar titles, founder Enzo Ferrari largely had to play second fiddle to Jaguar at Le Mans for much of the 1950s. Jose Froilan Gonzalez drove brilliantly to defeat the new Jaguar D-type with the monstrous 375 Plus in 1954, but it was not until the arrival of the three-litre limit in 1958 that Ferrari took a stranglehold on the race.

Its 250 Testa Rossa was constantly developed and won three times in four years, defeated only by the soon-to-withdraw Aston Martin team in 1959, between 1958 and 1961. The four-litre 330 TRI/LM dominated in 1962 but by then the challenge to the Italian firm’s supremacy was negligible.

The 250 P became the first mid-engined car to win Le Mans in 1963, leading a Ferrari 1-2-3-4-5-6. Ford’s big challenge arrived in 1964, but the rapid American machines weren’t reliable enough to prevent more Ferrari success that year or 1965 – even if privateers saved Enzo’s bacon in 1965 when the factory cars faltered. Ford’s steamroller got the job done in 1966 and the MkIV did it again the following year, despite stern resistance from Ferrari’s superb 330 P4.

Ferrari’s sportscar star was waning by the end of the decade, the 1969 312 P outnumbered by Porsche’s 908 and the 1970 512S outrun by the 917. But there was still one more big chance at Le Mans before Ferrari quit the top class to focus on its Formula 1 efforts.

The 1972 312 P (often referred to as the 312 PB) swept all before it in the world sportscar championship but didn’t go to Le Mans, which was dominated by Matra. The two titans met in 1973 and, after a hard-fought struggle, it was the French firm that came out on top, both in the title race and Le Mans.

Since then, Ferrari has been largely restricted to the GT classes, including its successful factory-backed AF Corse GTE operation, but is set to challenge for overall Le Mans honours once again with a new Hypercar from 2023.

Jaguar

Rolt and Hamilton headed Jaguar 1-2-4 in 1953 as C-Types crushed the opposition

Rolt and Hamilton headed Jaguar 1-2-4 in 1953 as C-Types crushed the opposition

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Wins: 7 (1951, 1953, 1955-57, 1988, 1990)

A promising run with mildly modified XK120s in 1950 encouraged Jaguar to take Le Mans seriously. The result was the C-type, which moved the goalposts and brought victory in the 24 Hours in 1951.

A catastrophic late bodywork change ruined Jaguar’s chances in 1952, but the C-types dominated the following year, with a 1-2-4. It was also the first Le Mans success for a car equipped with disc brakes.

The wind-cheating D-type was developed for Le Mans and, though it did win elsewhere, it was always at its best on the high-speed French circuit. A close second in 1954 was followed by a hat-trick of wins, for the factory team in 1955 and Ecurie Ecosse privateers in 1956-57. The later success was one of Jaguar’s finest hours in motorsport as D-types finished 1-2-3-4-6.

The change to three-litre regulations did not suit the legendary XK engine and Jaguar’s privateers were always up against it, despite E-types finishing fourth and fifth overall in 1962. But Le Mans had already helped to forge Jaguar’s reputation and develop its road cars.

Following the aborted XJ13 project, Jaguar did not return to Le Mans until the American Group 44 operation brought the name back in the 1980s. But it was the Tom Walkinshaw Racing-run cars that, from the end of 1985, became an ever-increasing threat to the dominant Porsches.

The XJR-8 dominated the world sportscar championship in 1987, only to fall short at the 24 Hours. Jaguar finally added a sixth Le Mans victory in 1988, Jan Lammers/Andy Wallace/Johnny Dumfries coming out on top of a mighty battle with the works Porsches.

Jaguar was soundly beaten by Sauber-Mercedes in 1989 but, in the absence of the Silver Arrows, took a 1-2 in 1990 with the XJR-12. The Jaguars were reliable in 1991, but they weren’t quite fast enough and finished 2-3-4 behind the winning Mazda 787 after all the rapid Mercedes C11s hit trouble.

Jaguar took time out of motorsport before returning in 2016-17 to tackle Formula E. But a push for an eighth Le Mans success seems a long way off.

Bentley

Bentley's Speed Eight was the only car to beat the Audi R8 at Le Mans, prevailing in 2003 with Kristensen, Capello and Smith

Bentley's Speed Eight was the only car to beat the Audi R8 at Le Mans, prevailing in 2003 with Kristensen, Capello and Smith

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Wins: 6 (1924, 1927-30, 2003)

The early days of Le Mans were truly for pioneers and the race looked very different. Although the official prizes were not initially for the overall victor, it soon became the public’s main interest.

After successfully completing the inaugural event in 1923, John Duff and Frank Clement scored Bentley’s first victory the following year with their 3 Litre Sport. Following two failed attempts, Bentley managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in 1927. A multi-car accident involved all three factory cars but Sammy Davis managed to extricate his car from the chaos. When the rival Aries broke down, Davis and Dudley Benjafield were left to take victory in their battered Bentley.

Woolf Barnato and Bernard Rubin won with their 4.5-litre Bentley in 1928, while Barnato (with Henry Birkin) led a Bentley 1-2-3-4 in their Speed Six the following year. Speed Sixes finished first and second in the smallest Le Mans field in 1930, but it was harder than the results suggest. Two teams of Bentleys – factory Speed Sixes and Dorothy Paget’s supercharged ‘Blower’ entries – were required to break down the challenge of the sole Mercedes SSK, driven by Rudolf Caracciola and Christian Werner.

Bentley was already in financial trouble and went through several owners before it seriously appeared at Le Mans again, though Jack Hay and Tommy Wisdom finished sixth overall in the famous Embiricos Bentley in 1949.

Now part of the Volkswagen Audi Group, Bentley returned in 2001 and took a fine third behind two Audi R8s. The best Bentley slipped to fourth the following year but, in the absence of the works Audi team, the new Speed 8 dominated in 2003, finishing 1-2 before being retired from competition.

Alfa Romeo

Chinetti and Etancelin gave Alfa a fourth consecutive victory in 1934

Chinetti and Etancelin gave Alfa a fourth consecutive victory in 1934

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Wins: 4 (1931-34)

One of the great grand prix and sportscar marques of the pre-Second World War era, Alfa Romeo picked up where Bentley left off. Already a winner in the Mille Miglia and Targa Florio road races, the Italian manufacturer took its first Le Mans win in 1931 when Earl Howe and Henry Birkin used Howe’s 8C 2300 to beat the bigger-engined Mercedes opposition.

That success was the first of four consecutive Le Mans wins for the 2.3-litre supercharged 8C, which included one of the closest finishes in 24 Hours history when Tazio Nuvolari/Raymond Sommer narrowly defeated the similar Alfa of Luigi Chinetti and Philippe de Gunzburg in 1933.

Alfa Romeo came close to winning Le Mans again in both 1935 and 1938 but could never match their earlier successes. There was a brief renaissance in 1953 with a team that included Juan Manuel Fangio, though all three of the works 6C 3000 CMs retired.

Its 1960s return was marginally more successful. The T33/3 won three world sportscar races in 1971, but Alfa Romeo tended to be outgunned, outnumbered or both by its Le Mans rivals, chiefly Porsche, Ferrari and Matra. Alfa’s world sportscar titles in 1975 and 1977 were scored against minimal opposition and Alfa’s best post-Second World War Le Mans result is fourth, scored in 1968 and 1972.

Ford

Foyt and Gurney kept Ford's winning run going in 1967

Foyt and Gurney kept Ford's winning run going in 1967

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Wins: 4 (1966-69)

Ford’s effort to defeat Ferrari after the near-purchase of the Italian firm is well-known, particularly following the success of the Le Mans ‘66 Hollywood film.

After two failed Le Mans bids in which none of the fast Ford GTs made it to the finish, the Blue Oval attacked the 1966 race with an effort not previously seen. The result was Ferrari’s capitulation and a Ford 1-2-3 with the seven-litre MkII, even if it did involve a controversial finish that appeared to rob the Ken Miles/Denny Hulme car of victory.

Things were closer in 1967. Ford’s onslaught, with MkIV and MkIIB entries, was no less impressive but Ferrari was better prepared. A multi-car crash took out three Fords and the reliable 330 P4s climbed the order. But AJ Foyt and Dan Gurney always looked in control and took victory at a record speed in their MkIV.

The big bangers were banned for 1968, but the JW Automotive Engineering team’s efforts with the Ford GT40 Mk1 finally paid off. After a season-long battle with Porsche, the Gulf-backed squad won Le Mans and the sportscar championship.

The GT40 was too old by 1969 but its durability kept it in contention in the longer races. After Jacky Ickx and Jackie Oliver won the Sebring 12 Hours the duo took a remarkable fourth victory for Ford in the 24 Hours after all the faster Porsches hit trouble.

Aside from its success as a manufacturer, Ford-badged Cosworth DFV engines also won Le Mans in 1975 (in a Mirage chassis) and 1980 (Rondeau). Apart from its aborted Group C programme, Ford has stayed away from the top class in recent decades, but it did return to Le Mans in 2016 and took GTE class victory on the 50th anniversary of its first outright success.

Matra

Pescarolo won Le Mans for Matra in three consecutive years, pictured here in 1974

Pescarolo won Le Mans for Matra in three consecutive years, pictured here in 1974

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Wins: 3 (1972-74)

Matra’s (Mecanique Aviation Traction) time at the top of motorsport was brief but successful. Jackie Stewart took the first of his F1 world championships with the Tyrrell-run, Cosworth-engined MS80 and Matra also took on endurance racing.

Matra gradually developed its series of sports-racers in the second half of the 1960s and the 1969 was a decent contender in the three-litre Group 6, while the MS660 ran as high as second against the big bangers at Le Mans in 1971.

The regulations changed to three-litre sportscars for 1972 and Matra focused on Le Mans. Ferrari skipped the race and, after a brief challenge from Jo Bonnier’s Lola, Matra dominated. Graham Hill/Henri Pescarolo led Francois Cevert/Howden Ganley home in an MS670 1-2.

Ferrari and Matra battled for supremacy throughout 1973 and it was the same at Le Mans. Ferrari qualified 1-2 and did most of the leading, but it was the Pescarolo/Gerard Larrousse Matra that came home first, with a sister MS670B in third.

With no Ferrari, Matra comfortably saw off the Gulf-Ford and Alfa Romeo opposition in the 1974 world sportscar championship – and scored another 1-3 at Le Mans – before withdrawing from motor racing.

Peugeot

Bouchut, Helary and Brabham took Peugeot's second win against limited opposition in 1993

Bouchut, Helary and Brabham took Peugeot's second win against limited opposition in 1993

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Wins: 3 (1992-93, 2009)

Apart from the Peugeot-based Darl’mat entries before the Second World War and the WM cars of the 1970s and 1980s, Peugeot’s first real Le Mans effort came with the 905.

The 3.5-litre V10 engined machine was not immediately a success, unreliable on its Le Mans debut and outpaced by Ross Brawn’s Jaguar XJR-14 in 1991. But investment and intensive development helped the Jean Todt-run operation to become more competitive.

Jaguar and Mercedes withdrew from the world sportscar championship ahead of 1992, leaving Peugeot to face Toyota. The Japanese manufacturer won the Monza opener, but Peugeot dominated thereafter, and finished first and third at Le Mans.

With the championship cancelled for 1993, Peugeot was left to dominate at Le Mans in the programme’s last outing and scored a 1-2-3 with its Evo 1 Bis.

Peugeot returned to the top tier of sportscar racing with the LMP1 908 in 2007. Over the ensuing five seasons Peugeot often outpaced rival Audi and won many races around the world but rarely had the luck at Le Mans. But either side of painful defeats despite incredible pace in 2008 and 2010, Peugeot scored a 1-2, David Brabham/Alexander Wurz/Marc Gene leading the way.

Peugeot had played its part in a fine period of endurance racing that contributed to the formation of the World Endurance Championship – the modern-day equivalent of the world sportscar championship – but shocked the motorsport world by withdrawing on the eve of the inaugural WEC season.

The announcement of a Le Mans Hypercar programme means Peugeot will be back a decade after the WEC started without it.

Toyota

The #8 Toyota is unbeaten in the past three iterations of Le Mans, with Buemi and Nakajima joined by Alonso and subsequently Hartley

The #8 Toyota is unbeaten in the past three iterations of Le Mans, with Buemi and Nakajima joined by Alonso and subsequently Hartley

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Wins: 3 (2018-20)

Toyota’s apparent curse at Le Mans had become legendary before it finally chalked up its first win in 2018. The Japanese marque hadn’t really got close during the Group C era, but the SARD-run 94V was on course for victory in 1994 when the gear linkage broke with 90 minutes to go and Eddie Irvine/Mauro Martini/Jeff Krosnoff finished second.

The sensational GT-One was rapid in 1998 and 1999, but second was again the best Toyota could manage. Gearbox problems stymied its challenge on the car’s debut, while contact took its lead car out in 1999. Ukyo Katayama, Toshio Suzuki and Keiichi Tsuchiya could have saved the day had it not been for a tyre blowout handing BMW the initiative in the closing stages.

Perhaps the most painful failure, though, came in 2016. The TS050 Hybrid of Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima had the Porsche and Audi opposition beaten when Nakajima lost power with six minutes to go. A connection in an air line between turbocharger and intercooler had fractured. The car ground to a halt on the start/finish line and was overtaken by the chasing Porsche with just over three minutes to go. And its last lap was too slow for the car to be classified.

After losing another 24 Hours it should have won in 2017 and the withdrawal of both Audi and Porsche, the TS050 finally got the job done in 2018 with Fernando Alonso sharing with Buemi and Nakajima.

Against limited, privateer opposition, Toyota added further wins in 2019 and 2020. It will start the 2021 Le Mans 24 Hours as favourite to take a fourth win with its new GR010 Hybrid Hypercar, but it may find further successes harder to come by when many of the big hitters – including some of those listed above – return to the Circuit de la Sarthe over the next two years.

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