As the race neared its end, it was Oliver Jarvis in the Audi trying to maintain the position ahead of a hard-charging Nicolas Lapierre. Lapierre had the raw speed, but he was caught out by the onset of a heavy downpour just over an hour from the end of the race, and he ended up burying the front of the #7 into the tyre wall at the Porsche curves.
Although Lapierre initially assumed the worst and jumped out of the car, a safety car period meant that he was able to climb back in and return the Toyota to the team garage for repairs which meant that he would at least finish the race in fourth place. However it certainly put the podium out of reach, with Marc Gene, Lucas di Grassi and Oliver Jarvis duly taking the honours instead in the #3 Audi.
The late cloudburst also caused a scare for longtime LMP2 class leader Bertrand Baguette in the #35 OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan he shared with Martin Plowman and Ricardo Gonzalez. Although he spun, he managed to avoid collecting anything in the process, and got back to pit lane without losing his lead over team mate Olivier Pla in the sister #24 car. Once the green flag came out he was able to complete the run to the class win.
The late rain had a more serious impact on the battle for the GTE-Pro honours, which had come down to a battle between Richard Lietz in the #92 Porsche AG Team Manthey and Stefan Mücke in the #97 Aston Martin Vantage V8, who thanks to a hard-charging stint in the car from his team mate Darren Turner was still in with a chance of getting an emotional team victory to dedicate to Allan Simonsen's memory. Mücke seemed about to clinch the class lead when a combination of rain and waved yellows forced him to back off.
Mücke dived into pit lane for a quick change to wet weather tyres, but he was then caught out by the red light at the end of pit lane. Through some combination of Le Man's uniquely arcane rules surrounding its multiple safety car procedures, this ended up dropping Mücke into third place, a lap off the back of Lietz and the sister #91 Porsche. It was a deflating end to what had already been a tragic weekend for everyone working in the Aston Martin family at Le Mans this weekend.
The final GTE-Am category had been controlled for much of the back half of the 24 hour endurance race by Jean-Karl Vernay and his co-drivers Raymond Narac and Christophe Bourret in the #76 IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, and it was only fitting that Vernay was at the wheel when the chequered flag waved. He finished a lap ahed of two AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italias, who in turned pushed Patrick Dempsey's #77 Dempsey Del Piero-Proton off the podium in the final hours.
Despite the tricky conditions, multiple spins and run-offs and a record number of safety cars, the race still saw a remarkably low attrition rate. Other than Allan Simonsen's terrible accident just ten laps into the event, there were just 13 further formal retirements during the full day of racing.
Aston Martin Racing might have been unable as a team to bring home the heartfelt tribute victory in memory of Simonsen; but with the Danish flag flying at half mast over the Le Mans podium, at least the top spot on the podium went to a fellow Dane.
Tom Kristensen had won the event for the ninth time in his career, making him one of the greatest Danish sporting heroes of all time, but on Sunday afternoon that significant and hard-won achievement was nonetheless a decidedly secondary matter when compared with the tributes and ovation paid to Allan Simonsen, to whom Kristensen himself duly dedicated the race victory from the winners' podium.
Full race results
Full results by class
Full WEC entrants results
Hourly 'as it happened' reports: