Porsche Wins Le Mans
Porsche celebrated its 19th overall win at the 2017 Le Mans 24-Hours, its third consecutive victory, in a dramatic race fit for the history books…
Porsche’s LMP1 team faced a tough battle for overall victory at the 85th running of the Le Mans 24-Hours, with its main challenge coming from Toyota whose cars boasted enough pace to outrun the 919 Hybrids. The question was this: were they reliable too? The Japanese manufacturer came within minutes of winning the 2016 race, before a technical failure gifted a second consecutive Le Mans victory to Porsche.
Once again Toyota competed with three prototype cars against Porsche’s two 919s in the top LMP1-H class – so the odds seemed stacked against Porsche from the outset. Qualifying served only to confirm what we already knew, Toyota locking out the front row with its lead car setting a new lap record (3:14.791), the highest placed 919 Hybrid was the No1 car of Neel Jani, André Lotterer and Nick Tandy which started the race in third. The No2 car of Earl Bamber, Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley was one place behind its sister car in fourth.
Although Jani’s Porsche made a move on lap one to grab second place, the race began largely as everyone expected, with two of the Toyotas steaming off into the distance chased by the two 919s, No1 followed by No2. The race really looked to be taking shape though when, at 18:30, the No2 Porsche spent an hour in the pits for repairs to its front axle motor, rejoining the race a huge 19 laps down, and last in the LMP1 class. That left the No1 car battling the No8 Toyota for second spot.
Things went from bad to worse for the No2 car, which was forced to serve a drive through penalty for the release of seat belts too soon at an earlier stop. During the first safety car phase of the race Neel Jani spun the No1 car on cold tyres before handing over to Nick Tandy. It was just in time for the Briton to inherit the lead as the No7 Toyota stopped on track immediately after the safety car period. There the No1 Porsche remained right through the night, ahead of the sole remaining Toyota (No8, after its No9 entry also stopped on track). The sister Porsche now sats second spot of the LMP1 runners, and Porsche was staring at the possibility of a one-two class finish. Come morning though things would change.
The No1 Porsche stopped on track soon after 11am on Sunday after having led the race for more than ten hours, handing the overall lead of the event to an LMP2 car – such had been the rate of attrition in LMP1. For the remaining Porsche the race was on. During a multiple stint Brendon Hartley pushed hard to catch the unlikely leader, before making the 919’s final refuelling stop and handing over the car in fourth position to Bernhard. Just before 1PM, the No2 919 Hybrid got back onto the lead lap of the race, and on lap 347 Bernhard took the overall lead of the race just twenty laps from the finish. The No2 Porsche had come from 56th position to win the race, Porsche’s 19th overall victory at Le Mans (the German manufacturer can now keep the famous Le Mans trophy). The win marks Bamber’s second Le Mans victory with Porsche following his result in 2015, so too Bernhard’s second overall win (he previous won with Audi), it is Brendon Hartley’s first Le Mans victory.
Team Principal, Andreas Seidl, said: “It’s hard to find words for what happened. The drivers and the entire team have done an amazing job. We can put two tough weeks behind us that provided some highs and lows but we fought with typical Porsche spirit. It will take some time for what we have achieved today to sink in. We’ve now won Le Mans three times in a row which is just sensational.”
Earl Bamber added: “I can’t believe we’ve managed to pull this one off having been at the back of the field after an hour in the pit-box. Both Brendon and Timo have been part of the Porsche LMP programme from the beginning while this victory is as much down to the guys in the pits. Without their hard work we wouldn’t have got back racing again so this win is down to them.”
RSR Misses Podium
In the GTE-Pro class the Porsche GT Team fielded two new 911 RSRs. In addition to the latest cars, four 2015-spec 911 RSRs were campaigned by Porsche customer teams competing in the GTE-Am class.
The two new 911 RSRs completed the first third of the race without any major problems, then things changed. Somehow when the No92 entry of Michael Christensen, Kévin Estre and Dirk Werner became entangled in a collision while running in second place, the car recovered loosing virtually no time. That luck would expire though, and it was Christensen who would halt the car’s race, he clipped a kerb in the Ford chicane and crashed backwards into the barriers. The car was out.
In the second half of the race things were looking better for the No91 RSR of Patrick Pilet, Richard Lietz and Frédéric Makowiecki who were fighting for a podium finish in the GTE-Pro class. With just one-and-a-half hours to go Makowiecki was running in third place but he would soon incur a puncture forcing the car back into the pits for an unscheduled stop – it would cross the line in fourth position.
In the GTE-Am class the Dempsey Proton Racing entry, No77, of Porsche Young Professional Matteo Cairoli, Christian Ried and Marvin Dienst was the highest 911, it finished in sixth.
Once more Le Mans delivers it all – including a story you simply couldn’t write. Round four of the WEC will take place on 16 July at the Nürburgring.
|1. Bernhard/Bamber/Hartley||919 Hybrid||367 laps|
|2. Davidson/Buemi/Nakajima||Toyota TS050 Hybrid||
|RET. Jani/Tandy/Lotterer||Porsche 919 Hybrid||318 laps|
|1. Turner/Adam/Serra||Aston Martin||340 laps|
|2. Priaulx/Tincknell/Derani||Ford GT||
|3. Magnussen/Garcia/Taylor||Chevrolet Corvette||340 laps|
|4. Lietz/Makowiecki/Pilet||911 RSR||340 laps|
|RET. Christensen/Estre/Werner||911 RSR||179 laps|
|1. Smith/Stevens/Vanthoor||Ferrari 488 GTE||333 laps|
|2. Cameron/Scott/Cioci||Ferrari 488 GTE||
|3. Yoluc/Hankey/Bell||Aston Martin||331 laps|
|6. Ried/Cairoli/Dienst||911 RSR||329 laps|
|9. Long/Al Faisal/Hedlund||911 RSR||329 laps|
|10. Wainwright/Barker/Foster||911 RSR||328 laps|