24-Hour Le Mans: The fat lady is tuning up
From Brian Laban, in Le Mans
So now it’s coming to the crunch: eighteen hours of test, practice and qualifying, 23 hours of racing so far, two years of increasing expectations, 65 years of Le Mans history, 17 years of waiting since the last time – and now it only comes down to surviving for just over another hour to add Le Mans 2015 to the sixteen already in the trophy cabinet. And two cars in the pound seats at the top of the LMP1 Hybrid timing sheets, with the race-long Audi challenge finally looking to have run its course against a series of small but significant delays.
As it stands, tomorrow’s headlines are going to say something about one of Porsche’s F1 drivers winning Le Mans – because that’s how newspaper sports desks think, but they won’t do the story much justice. Whether the headliner is Nico Hulkenberg in the 19 car that has been in control for many hours now, or Mark Webber in 17, who has led and chased and now sits second, it has to be acknowledged that endurance racing is above all a team effort, and that Hulkenberg would not win without Earl Bamber, and Nick Tandy (who has performed out of his skin all weekend), nor Webber without superquick team-mates Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley. And neither of them would have won without incredible management.
But barring total disaster, one or other of them really is about to win, and win fair and square, and for once corporate stablemate Audi will be the bridesmaid, not the bride – which may make a victory today all the sweeter. Come back in an hour, and we’ll finish the story. . .