Porsche scores a double in a thrilling race!

263 500 spectators! Le Mans again attracted a bumper crowd this year, which set a new record. Porsche scored a magnificent 17th victory thanks to Hülkenburg, Bamber and Tandy in no. 19 while no. 17 in the hands of Bernhard, Webber and Harley finished second giving the German make a double.

Four major manufacturers were entered in the blue riband category, LM P1, for the 83rd Le Mans 24 Hours. Audi and Porsche defended German colours with almost equally-powered cars against a Japanese duo Toyota, the reigning world champion, and Nissan, making its comeback to top-level racing, with a greater performance disparity.

In the German-Japanese battle the German camp came out on top in terms of speed and endurance thanks mainly to Porsche. The two German manufacturers were locked in a no-holds-barred fight throughout the race. The Audi R18 e-tron quattro and Porsche 919 Hybrid drivers rivalled each other in terms of daring at over 240 km/h when allowed to do so by track conditions.

Logically speaking, the only car that didn’t run into trouble won the race. The no. 19 Porsche 919 Hybrid scored the German make’s 17th victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours. It got the better of Audi, but not without a few difficulties, as the latter’s cars were delayed by a succession of glitches. The first Audi to drop back was no. 8 on late Saturday afternoon after hitting the guardrail between Mulsanne and Arnage. After taking the fight to the no. 19 Porsche all night no. 7 lost its engine cover at 06h55 on Sunday morning. As a result of a slight contact with a Ferrari during the night and problems with its left-hand front hybrid system, no. 9 was the last of the Audi Team Joest cars to run into trouble, which prevented the Ingolstadt manufacturer from scoring its 14th victory.

In the meantime, the two rookies German Nico Hülkenberg, the only current F1 driver in the race, New Zealander Earl Bamber and Englishman Nick Tandy (2 Sarthe outings), continued racking up the stints without faltering, and took a lead they were never to lose on lap 252 on Sunday morning when the no. 7 Audi fell back.

The No. 17 Porsche driven by Webber, Bernhard and Hartley finished on the second step of the podium. The car held the lead in the early stages of the race, but it too lost ground in the evening after being hit by a 1-minute penalty for overtaking under yellow flags. At the chequered flag it was only 1 lap behind its sister car that had covered 395 laps, only two fewer than the overall distance record for the race!

In the Japanese camp Toyota put on a good show although the TS040 Hybrid was outpaced by the German cars. No. 2 in the hands of Sarrazin-Wurz-Conway was the highest placed (6th) eight laps behind the winner. Only one of the three Nissans on the grid finished after nos 21 and 23 had retired early on in the night and two hours before the finish respectively. No. 22 took the flag, but was an unclassified finisher as it hadn’t done at least 70%, of the distance covered by the winner.

Clean sweep for the Hong Kong-based team KCMG that won the race after setting the fastest time in qualifying. Frenchman Nicolas Lapierre and his British team-mates Matthew Hewson and Richard Bradley in the no. 47 Nissan-engined Oreca 05 had to fight hard to beat their rivals, especially the armada of Ligiers, which were hit with a string of race incidents (fire on no. 26 and penalties on no. 28). KCMG then had to cope with the threat from another Oreca 05 entered by Thiriet by TDS Racing. It gave the blue and silver car a run for its money in the opening stages of the race before a collision in the middle of the night in the Forza Motorsport chicane. The no. 99 Aston Martin leading its category rear-ended the no 46 Oreca driven by Tristan Gommendy. While no.99 was able to restart the French car suffered terminal damage in the incident. The no. 38 Gibson O15S run by English team Jota Motorsport, victorious in 2014, finished second less than a minute behind the winners followed by the no. 26 G-Drive Racing Ligier JS P2.

The race got off to a flying start in the LM GTE Pro category, which had lost one of its potential victory contenders in qualifying when the no. 63 Corvette crashed heavily, and the car couldn’t be repaired in time for the race. The title defender, the no. 51 Ferrari, led first time round, but it was soon overtaken by the Aston Martins. Porsche lost a car early on when no. 92’s engine caught fire on Les Hunaudières at 15h18 with Patrick Pilet at the wheel. Thus, all the hopes of Team Porsche Manthey reposed on no. 91 that was in third place on Sunday morning before having to pit with a leak in the gearbox. The no. 51 Ferrari let the no. 64 Corvette fight it out with the nos 99, 95, and 97 Aston Martins, and then retook the lead at 05h00 on Sunday morning after which it became involved in a ding-dong battle with the Corvette. But the Italian car ran into problems, and at 11h00 it was pushed into its garage for repairs to the gearbox. It rejoined in third place behind its sister car no. 71 under threat from the no. 95 Aston Martin.

With a five-lap lead with two hours to go to the finish Gavin-Taylor-Milner in no. 64 were able to ease off as 15h00 approached. They took the flag to give General Motors its eighth victory at Le Mans, the first for the Chevrolet Corvette C7 that covered 337 laps and finishing 17th overall. The nos 71 and 51 Ferraris completed the top 3.

The no. 98 Aston Martin, which dominated qualifying in the hands of Dalla Lana, Lamy and Lauda, led the category in the race although the no 72 SMP Racing Ferrari and the no. 83 458 Italia entered by AF Corse posed a threat to the English car. Throughout the night the no. 72 Ferrari was never far behind and went into the lead whenever no. 98 refuelled.

On Sunday morning no. 72 driven by Viktor Shaiter went straight on at Indianapolis. This incident looked like it had handed victory to the Aston Martin until 46 minutes from the finish Canadian driver Paul Dalla Lana lost control of his car and hit the guardrail in the Ford corners. Although he got out of the Vantage V8 unhurt he was unable to restart. It proved to be a very cruel race for Aston Martin that had already lost a car, no. 96, at 07h39 on Sunday morning. Roald Goethe had a big shunt in the Karting corner and was taken to the Le Mans hospital centre to undergo examinations. Behind the leaders there was a superb scrap between the no. 77 Porsche entered by Dempsey Proton Racing and the no. 62 Ferrari run by American squad, Scuderia Corsa. They finished in this order behind the no. 72 Ferrari of Basov, Shaytar and Bertolini who had taken the lead in LM GTE Am. So Patrick Dempsey fulfilled a dream by appearing on the podium of the Le Mans 24 Hours with his fellow-countryman, Patrick Long, and German Marco Sieefried after a great race.