Lilou Wadoux completes maiden 24H du Mans in the top 10
The 21 year old Frenchwoman completed her first ever 24 Hours of Le Mans in the Top Ten in LMP2, at her rookie season in international sports car racing.
Any edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is an unforgettable experience and something that every motor racing enthusiast cherishes. It is one of those events whose legacy goes beyond the sport itself. The 90th running of the legendary 24 hours will be even more unforgettable for a young French woman, who became one of the elite racing drivers able to write that off their bucket list.
Lilou Wadoux, 21, from Amien, was in fact one of the 186 drivers on the starting grid on Saturday, turning any racing drivers’ dream into reality. Together with the Indianapolis 500 and the Monaco GP, the 24 Hours of Le Mans is in fact one of those races that can define the career of an athlete.
Wadoux is a reserved person outside the track, but is able to turn into the fiercest racer once the helmet's visor drops. Having started in national touring car championships before making her switch to the GT4-based Alpine Europa Cup, Wadoux immediately proved that she had the skills to do well at her first season in the French one-make series. And she was back for more in 2021, when she became a podium contender in every round of the championship.
After winning her first race in the series and having finished third in the championship standings, Wadoux was invited by Richard Mille to the FIA WEC rookie test in December 2021, when she got behind the wheel of the Oreca LMP2 car for the first time.
Under the eyes of Richard Mille Racing – a project launched by the Swiss watchmaker to increase the female participation at the highest spheres of endurance racing – Lilou quickly impressed and secured a spot on the grid of the World Endurance Championship for 2022.
The project – which is run by French team Signatech alongside the Alpine Hypercar program – was therefore the perfect fit for the car brand, which has in Lilou Wadoux a young talent and ambassador for its Europa Cup platform.
Certainly, her first international sports car championship was always going to be a learning experience – but Wadoux soon showed speed and steady progress. After Sebring and Spa Francorchamps, it was time for the biggest race on the planet – the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Lilou Wadoux shared the #1 Richard Mille Racing LMP2 Oreca with Charles Milesi and rally legend Sebastien Ogier – also making his debut at La Sarthe, in an all-French trio.
In practice the team showed good promise, always running in contention for a top ten during the whole week of preparation for the big race.
Milesi went out on track for the 1-hour session qualifying on Wednesday and narrowly missed out on a spot on HyperPole: he would qualify the #1 Oreca in a nevertheless promising 7th place in LMP2.
Milesi was also in the driving seat on Saturday at the race start – and with a great launch he was quickly up to fifth in what was a rather messy LMP2 start.
He would then settle in the top ten, but with a great charge in the opening hours, Milesi was moving up into podium contention when he was handed a one-minute time penalty for crossing the white line at pit entry. The penalty dropped them just outside the top 10 in class and Milesi had to rebuild the progress made with some remarkable overtaking moves.
Sebastien Ogier was second in the car, before another double-stint by Milesi that handed over to Lilou Wadoux at the six-hour mark. The French lady therefore officially started her first Le Mans 24h stint – and she did so as the sun was setting and with the darkness of the night approaching.
Lilou made no mistakes and had a very solid stint as the team was navigating in P12 and P13.
After the mid-way point of the race, Wadoux was back in the driving seat fr her second run, which was again flawless and trouble-free. Having handed the car back in the hands of Charles Milesi, the team made it back into the top 10 in the early morning hours.
Ogier and Milesi alternated behind the wheel until 2 hours and 30 minutes to go, when Wadoux was ready for her final stints: having rejoined in P10, she had to battle hard to conquer her first top ten at such a prestigious event like Le Mans.
And the final hours turned out to be action-packed and full of drama across the fields: Wadoux made some good passes and had great battles with series front-runners.
She caught up with Paul Lafargue (#48 IDEC Sport LMP2), just before her final pit stop. She completed one more stint and handed over to Milesi for the final section of the race.
Having rejoined just on the edge of the top-10, Milesi had to chase back the cars ahead. They eventually finished ahead of both the #32 WRT and #22 United Autosport – with whom Lilou had a long and exciting battle in the final minutes of her stint.
Lilou Wadoux, Charles Milesi and Sebastien Ogier completed the iconic race in ninth place – an outstanding result for the young lady at her debut not only in Le Mans but at her first year in prototypes.
With P9, she equals Richard Mille Racing’s previous best result at Le Mans, set by Sophia Floersch, Tatiana Calderon and Beitske Visser in 2020.
With such limited experience, Lilou Wadoux showed what she is capable of on one of the world’s top starting grids, in a race that represents the ultimate challenge.
Today, a star was born.