Toyota fumbles in the last minutes
From midnight the duel, between Porsche and Toyota for the 24 hour Le Mans race win had intensified but no one would have expected such an ending. Before the final lap, Toyota seemed to be coming out on top, but then the prototype stopped on track. One lap later it was the No. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb that took the chequered flag first in front of some of the approximately 263,000 spectators that attended the event. It was the same trio that had achieved the maiden win for the 662-kilowatt (900-ps/887-horsepower) prototype in 2014 in Brazil.
The success is the 18th overall victory for Porsche at the world’s hardest car race. One of the most eligible trophies on the globe will be homed for the second consecutive year at Porsche’s headquarters, because the company came as record holder and title defender. In 2015, drivers Earl Bamber, Nico Hülkenberg and Nick Tandy won with a Porsche 919 Hybrid. The first ever overall Le Mans victory for Porsche dates back to June 14, 1970 and was achieved by Hans Herrmann and Richard Attwood in a 917 KH Coupé.
The second Porsche 919 Hybrid with car No. 1, shared by reigning endurance world champions Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley and Mark Webber, had a long stop for repairs at night, fought back and finished 13th overall. In the Le Mans Prototype 1 (LMP1) class, it came fifth. Porsche was rewarded in Le Mans with a total of 71 points for the manufacturers’ standings of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). For the Le Mans 24-Hours twice as many points are awarded as for the other eight six-hours races of the championship. Porsche leads the manufacturers’ standings with 127 points ahead of Audi (95) and Toyota (79). In the drivers’ standings, Dumas, Jani and Lieb have now 94 points in total and lead by 39 points.
Lieb had a strong quadruple stint, occasionally leading in the No. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid before he handed the car over to Neel Jani at 11:50 (hours) after 331 laps. The Swiss refueled after 345, 359 and 373 laps. After 381 laps, he had to pit because of a slow puncture and then, in the last moments of the race, a P2 finish appeared the best possible result. But then the leading Toyota stopped on track just before the final lap.
The No. 1 sister car, that was leading earlier in the race but dropped back by 39 laps after a water pump failure and consequential damage at 23:13, was in the hands of Mark Webber at 11:20 after it had done 285 laps. Webber refuelled after 298 and 311 laps. After 324 laps, Webber handed over to Bernhard, who had his final splash and dash after 337 laps and brought the car home in 13th place overall after it had covered a distance of 346 laps.
“First of all I would like to express my respect for the sensational performance which Toyota gave in this race. It was a great fight with them. Shortly before the finish we had settled for second place until we suddenly claimed our second Le Mans victory in a row. I would like to thank our great team in Weissach, our team here in Le Mans and all Porsche employees and fans which have supported us here,” said Fritz Enzinger, vice president LMP1.
“First of all we certainly feel for our colleagues and friends from Cologne. To give away such a great race this way on the last lap is something you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. But this is the sport with all its highs and lows and that’s also why we love it for. It was a strong fought victory,” team principal Andreas Seidl, for his part, said.
“We had to put Toyota under pressure and went flat out for the entire race. Also our drivers were on the edge. The frequency with which the leader changed was extreme. Since we have started development and preparation for the 919 Hybrid we have de- livered a strong performance. This goes for our colleagues at home in Weissach as well as for the race team. As happy as I am for the No. 2 crew, I feel sorry for the guys from the No. 1 car. Without the failure and the long repair they would have been able to fight for the win as well. To win Le Mans is the highlight of the season and it is difficult to believe we have managed it twice now in what is only our third year. Now we look forward. We take a lot of points from here and now we want to defend both world championship titles as well.“