Le Mans 2016: Reliving the final lap with Porsche’s Neel Jani

Henry Kelsall

The final lap of the 2016 Le Mans 24 hours was one of the most incredible moments in the history of Motorsport. Neel Jani, who was driving the #2 Porsche that won, describes how he felt during that last lap to Mobil 1 The Grid

The race was an up and down affair for the #2 Porsche. The car lead the race from pole, but soon dropped back behind both Toyotas. At midnight they started to come back into contention and it was a tense and thrilling three horse race between Jani’s car and the two Toyotas. But things soon started to unravel for the #2 crew.

“In the early morning hours we had the first slow puncture. Of two. Which put us on the back foot. If you are in our position, where we are P2 and catching up where we can still get the lead, you put a guy in who will maybe risk a little more. For sure that’s something the team knew I could do!”

Jani pushed like mad to close the gap after he got into the car for the last three hours. He brought it down from 40 seconds to just 20 and the gap stabalised from that moment on. Then with 10 minutes left to run, the car suffered the second of two slow punctures and Jani had to bring the 919 Hybrid back into the pits. The Toyota then had a big enough gap to cruise home for the Japanese manufacturer’s first ever win in the historic race. It looked set to be over for Porsche.

“I brought the gap down to 20 seconds, but that’s where it stabalised suddenly for the last 40 minutes of the race. And I kept pushing but that’s when I got another slow puncture. That’s when I thought, that’s it.”

But it wasn’t over. With just over one lap to go the Toyota started to slow, and slow, and slow…the race was still on. Jani rapidly closed up to the car and at the start of the final lap, the Toyota pulled over to the side and Jani’s Porsche went by and into the lead. It was one of the most incredible finishes the race had ever seen. Not to mention one of the most heartbreaking.

“We don’t wish bad luck to our competitors because they did a great job. And no one deserves a heartbreaking moment like that at the very last minute.”

Jani’s crew celebrated and who could blame them? They had snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, in one of the most thrilling Le Mans 24 Hours of all time. It was a reminder that you should never give up until the checkered flag drops. Because it’s never over until it’s over.

Start the discussion

to comment