Porsche triumph in dramatic race of attrition at Le Mans

The #2 Porsche car of Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard and Earl Bamber took victory at the Le Mans 24 Hours, in a race of attrition that saw two LMP2 cars on the overall race podium

Toyota had locked out the front row in qualifying with the #7 ahead of the #8 on the grid. The #1 Porsche split them for much of the race but a rapid stint by Kazuki Nakajima in the 7th hour restored a 1-2 for the Japanese manufacturer, the #7 car enjoying a dominant lead. Then just an hour later the #8 car headed into the garage with a front motor problem and the car was in the garage for nearly two and a half hours. This put the #1 Porsche back into P2 and the #9 Toyota into P3. Mike Conway extended the #7’s lead in the next hour but with just under half the race gone it all came undone for Toyota. After a safety car period ended, Kaumi Kobyashi, who took pole in the #7, failed to accelerate away when the safety car pulled in. The car had a clutch issue and Kobyashi tried desperately to get it back to the pits, but to no avail. He climbed out of the car and Kobyashi, Conway and Stephane Sarrazin were out.

This left the #1 Porsche out in front with the #9 car still in with a shot at the win in second place. But in the 11th hour the #9 car spun off at turn one with a left rear puncture. Driver Nicola Lapierre tried to get the car back into the pitlane but drove too fast, wrecked the rear and severed hydraulic lines. The car briefly burst into flames and then ran out of power just agonisingly short of the pitlane entry. Lapierre, Jose Maria Lopez and Yuji Kunimoto were out as well. With the #8 car too far down to fight for the win, Toyota’s hopes of winning the race were officially over for another year.  Porsche had a dominant lead over what turned out to be LMP2 cars. With the #8 being so far down and the #2 Porsche also having been in the garage for over an hour with problems as well, the Jackie Chan DC Racing and Rebellion LMP2 cars occupied the final podium spots.

 

The #1 Porsche continued to lead through the night and into the morning. But with over three hours to go, Andre Lotterer reported a loss of oil pressure early into the 21st hour and he was told to switch of the engine. He tried to get back to the pits on electrical power only but after stopping and starting, he had no choice but to retire the car. This left the Jackie Chan LMP2 car in the lead of the race overall. But the #2 Porsche had the speed and time to take the lead again for Porsche. With an hour left to go and with Timo Bernhard at the wheel they did just that, meaning Bernhard, Earl Bamber and Brendon Hartley were heading for victory at Le Mans. And they took it.

The Jackie Chan LMP2 car of Oliver Jarvis, Thomas Laurent and Ho-Pin Tung claimed second overall and won the LMP2 class, with the Rebellion of Nelson Piquet Jr Mathias Beche and David Heinemeier taking third overall and second in LMP2. The LMP2 race had seesawed between the Rebellions and the Jackie Chan car, but ultimately it was the latter that came out on top with both Rebellions having some issues during the race. The JC car had ran off with nose damage earlier in the race, but fought back to win their category.

GT Pro was decided on the last lap in a thrilling last lap battle between the #97 Aston Martin of Jonny Adam, Daniel Serra and Darren Turner and the #63 Corvette of Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor. The #97 had been in contention throughout with the sister #95 car.

The fight ebbed and flowed between Aston Martin, Corvette, Ford and Porsche. It all came down to the fight between the #97 and #63 and with just three laps to go Adam made a move on the inside of Taylor at Arnage but ran wide and the Corvette took the position back. On the next lap Taylor cut the chicane at the second Mulsanne and went through the gravel, but somehow managed to hold on to the lead. Aston went through as the Corvette suffered a puncture–It would eventually finish P3 as the Ford GT driven by Harry Tincknell and shared with Andy Priaulx and Luis Derani took P2 in the last sector of the lap.

GTE Am saw the #84 JMW Motorsport Ferrari driven by Will Stevens, Dries Vanthoor and Robert Smith win from seventh on the grid by over a lap from the #55 Spirit of Race Ferrari driven by Duncan Cameron, Aaron Scott and Marco Cioci. They lead virtually all of the way, and never looked back to take a very popular race win and beat the factory backed Aston Martin Am cars which had a convincing lead early into the race.