Porsche wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans after LMP1 meltdown
The No. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid has claimed overall victory in the 85th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, following a come-from-behind run in an attrition-filled and bizarre race that saw every single LMP1 car hit mechanical trouble.
Timo Bernhard passed the LMP2 class No. 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07 Gibson of Ho-Pin Tung for the outright lead with only 1 hour and 7 minutes to go, after charging back from a nearly 20-lap deficit due to a front motor generator unit failure in the third hour.
While being the first of the LMP1 hybrids to run into issues, and spending more than one hour in the garage for a full rebuild of the front axle, Bernhard and co-drivers Earl Bamber and Brendon Hartley worked their way through the field while others fell by the wayside.
Pre-race favorites Toyota Gazoo Racing saw two of its three TS050 Hybrids retire prior to halfway, with the No. 8 entry having a lengthy stop, also to replace its front MGU, with the sister, then-leading No. 1 Porsche having a trouble-free run until less than four hours to go when Andre Lotterer ground to a halt on-track after reporting low oil pressure.
The No. 1 Porsche’s retirement put a LMP2 car into the overall lead for the first time in the race’s history, in the hands of 19-year-old Silver-graded Le Mans rookie Thomas Laurent, who led for nearly two hours.
Bernhard’s 10-to-15-second per lap advantage over the Jota Sport-run Oreca 07 Gibson, however, saw DC Racing’s two-lap lead steadily evaporate, compounded by a rear-deck change for the LMP2 contender, which cost the Chinese squad nearly one minute in the pits.
The 2014 FIA World Endurance Champion crossed the line 1 lap ahead of the LMP2 class-winning DC entry of Ho-Pin Tung, who held onto second overall, despite late-race overheating concerns.
LMP2 cars claimed eight of the top-10 finishing positions, with the No. 8 Toyota of Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima coming home 9 laps behind in 9th overall after its lengthy delay in the eighth hour.
Only two of the six LMP1 cars finished, in the worst reliability record since the category’s launch with hybrid drivetrains in 2014.
The pole-sitting No. 7 Toyota led from the start and held nearly a one-minute lead until clutch issues in the 10th hour, which saw Kamui Kobayashi slow on track and ultimately abandon the car at the Porsche Curves.
Less than 20 minutes later, contact from a LMP2 car resulted in a left-rear tire puncture and subsequent fire for the No. 9 car of Nicolas Lapierre.
Like Kobayashi, Lapierre attempted to limp his Toyota back to the pits but parked the car within sight of pit entry, ending the Japanese manufacturer’s hopes of victory after coming less than ten minutes away from a sure-fire win last year.
The No. 4 ByKolles Racing ENSO CLM P1/01 AER, the only LMP1 Privateer entrant in this year’s race, sustained a puncture at the start only to retire with engine failure after completing two laps.
Despite the unusual rate of attrition, Porsche claimed its third consecutive win and record-extending 19th overall in the race.
While it marked Bernhard’s second overall crown following his 2010 win with Audi and Bamber’s second in three years, 27-year-old Hartley scored his first win in the French endurance classic.
Jackie Chan DC Racing executed a near-perfect race with its No. 38 Oreca 07 Gibson to clinch LMP2 class victory in the 85th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and even briefly flirt with overall victory before finishing second in the final classification.
Starting third in class, Oliver Jarvis made a rapid start in the Oreca to move into the lead through the first stint, only to drop back after a starter issue.
More ground was lost when Thomas Laurent suffered a brief stoppage on-track at Indianapolis before getting the car back going, after which point the trio that also featured Ho-Pin Tung stayed out of trouble, rising up the order through the night as the LMP1 field descended into meltdown.
A LMP2 car finishing on the podium seemed possible yet improbable heading into the race given the low turnout for the premier class, but with four of the five LMP1 hybrid runners hitting trouble by half-distance, it looked increasingly likely.
Repeated issues for the early LMP2 pace-setter Vaillante Rebellion Racing with its pairs of Orecas, No. 13 and No. 31, caused the Swiss team to lose its 1-2 position and fall a lap behind the No. 38 car with seven hours to go.
Running second overall, DC Racing became the first ever LMP2 team to lead the overall order at Le Mans in the 21st hour when Andre Lotterer was forced to park his No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid up at the side of the track, squandering a 13-lap advantage over the field.
The No. 38 car enjoyed an extended stint as the outright leader, with Laurent and Tung sharing the running at the sharp end of the field before the recovering No. 2 Porsche eroded the two-lap deficit that stood after Lotterer’s stoppage.
Timo Bernhard made an easy pass on Tung to take the lead heading into the final hour of the race, with the DC Racing pit wall informing its driver to be careful and ensure the car did not overheat.
A change of the rear end of the car was completed in the closing stages, with the two-lap buffer to Rebellion’s No. 13 car that was second in class giving the team plenty of breathing room.
With 24 hours in the book and having fully embraced spirit of the ‘Mighty 38’ previously made famous by Jota Sport, who remains heavily involved in the running of the team and has since passed on the nickname, Tung crossed the line to secure class victory for DC Racing and finish second overall, one lap down on the race winner.
The result marked the first class victory for a Chinese team at Le Mans, as well as maiden successes for Jarvis, Tung and Laurent, the latter standing on top of the LMP2 podium at just 19 years old in his race debut.
The overall podium was also notable for being the first since 1995 to feature entries from mixed classes, with LMP2 cars finishing second and third alongside the race winner from LMP1.
Finishing two laps down on the No. 38 Oreca, Rebellion clinched P2 in class and third overall with its No. 13 Oreca shared by Nelson Piquet Jr., Mathias Beche and David Heinemeier Hansson.
Capping off a remarkable day for DC Racing, the No. 37 Oreca managed to move into the top three in the final hour, giving Tristan Gommendy, David Cheng and Alex Brundle a class podium.
The trio benefitted from a late error made by Andre Negrao in the No. 35 Signatech Alpine Matmut Alpine A470 Gibson, running into the gravel and Mulsanne to throw away a chance at completing the LMP2 podium alongside Nelson Panciatici and Pierre Ragues.
Despite fears of Oreca chassis dominating proceedings in the race, United Autosports managed to take fifth in class with the No. 32 Ligier JS P217 Gibson, marking a solid Le Mans debut for the Anglo-American outfit.
Jonny Adam, Darren Turner and Daniel Serra took a dramatic GTE-Pro class victory for Aston Martin Racing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, in a repeat of the classic battles for GT1 honors with Corvette Racing from 10 years ago.
The race came down the penultimate lap as Adam’s No. 97 Aston Martin Vantage GTE passed Jordan Taylor’s No. 63 Corvette C7.R at the Ford Chicane, following a lock-up on the Mulsanne Straight that resulted in a left-front puncture for the Corvette driver.
It was Aston Martin’s first victory in the GTE-Pro division at Le Mans and came a decade after Darren Turner, Rickard Rydell and David Brabham took AMR’s first Le Mans win, also over Corvette, in the GT1 class, in 2007.
It was Turner’s third class victory at Le Mans, and a first for both Adam and Brazilian driver Serra on his first appearance in the race.
Taylor managed to limp his damaged car across the line, but lost second to the No. 67 Ford GT of Harry Tincknell, Andy Priaulx and Pipo Derani, who take the lead in the FIA World Endurance Championship as a result.
Five different manufacturers filled the top-five positions in a race that delivered on its billing and was far more evenly-matched than last year’s two-horse race between Ford and Ferrari.
The dynamic of the race only became clear at the final pitstops with 47 minutes to go, as the multiple strategies played out between the six cars remaining on the lead lap.
Fighting back from an early puncture that forced them to run off strategy, the No. 63 Corvette of Taylor emerged with a slender advantage over Adam, driving the car which had set a new lap record for a GTE car around the current configuration in qualifying.
The pair were never separated by more than a few car-lengths over the final stint, before Adam made his move with three laps to go at Arnage.
However, Taylor saw it coming and completed the over-under on corner exit to regain the lead.
He looked set for victory at this stage, but a lock-up at the second chicane on the Mulsanne Straight allowed Adam to close in again heading into the last lap.
With the Aston Martin filling his mirrors, Taylor ran wide at the Ford Chicane and again in his attempts to recover the position at the Dunlop Chicane, before the tire finally let go entering Tetre Rouge, dashing hopes of securing Corvette’s ninth win in the French endurance classic.
A late splash-and-dash dropped the No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR of Fred Makowiecki, Richard Lietz and Patrick Pilet to fourth on the mid-engined car’s first outing at Le Mans, with the No. 71 AF Corse 488 GTE shared by Sam Bird, Davide Rigon and Miguel Molina finishing fifth.
Several expected contenders fell by the wayside in the early morning hours.
Tommy Milner lost control of the No. 64 Corvette at the Porsche Curves and got stuck in the gravel as he tried to get back to the pits on three wheels, shortly before Michael Christensen crashed the No. 92 Porsche at the Ford Chicane.
Nicki Thiim, Marco Sorensen and Richie Stanaway fought back from a left-rear puncture in the early stages to the lead by the early morning, before Stanaway made a mistake and crashed at Mulsanne Corner.
The major beneficiary of this appeared to be the No. 51 Ferrari of James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Michele Rugolo, but Calado lost over an hour in the pits with radiator damage following a clash with the TF Sport’s Aston Martin, posing a heavy blow to the team’s WEC championship aspirations.
LAT ImagesRainier Ehrhardt
JMW Motorsport’s all-rookie Le Mans GTE lineup turned in a tour de force in its brand-new Ferrari 488 GTE to take class honors, leading a sweep of the GTE-Am podium for the Prancing Horse in the 85th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
From sixth on the starting grid, Rob Smith, Will Stevens, and Dries Vanthoor methodically made their way up the running order, taking the lead by the end of the third hour.
The trio largely controlled the race from there, emerging as the dominant force in GTE-Am by sunrise on Sunday.
Duncan Cameron, Aaron Scott, and Marco Cioci came home second in the No. 55 Spirit of Race Ferrari, one lap behind the class-winning JMW squad.
Townsend Bell, Bill Sweedler, and Cooper MacNeil completed the podium in the No. 62 Scuderia Corsa entry, with No. 99 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin Vantage GTE and No. 61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari completing the top-five in class.
The win was the second consecutive triumph for the British squad, which sent its old Ferrari F458 Italia GT out with a bang by besting the GTE field in the most recent European Le Mans Series round at Monza.
While JMW’s race went relatively drama free, potential challengers started falling by the wayside early and often.
The No. 98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage GTE appeared to be the class of the field in the first third of the race before a tire puncture and subsequent damage derailed its bid for victory in the eighth hour.
Drivers Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda rallied to finish eighth in class.
A spin by the No. 90 TF Sport entry with five hours and 30 minutes to go deprived the British team, in its Le Mans debut, a class podium, while the class pole-sitting No. 50 Larbre Competition Corvette C7.R suffered bodywork damage and a trip through the gravel.
The No. 77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR, another early contender, had gearbox problems overnight after contending as well.