2015 24 Hours of Le Mans: Porsche secures historic 17th victory
It was a long time coming (17 years, in fact) but Porsche has finally climbed onto the top step of the La Sarthe podium after the no. 19 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Nick Tandy, Earl Bamber and Nico Hülkenberg took victory at the 83rd 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Porsche’s decision to enter a third Porsche 919 Hybrid at the famous French endurance race paid off spectacularly as the no. 19 outpaced the no. 17 car of Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard to give Weissach a sensational one-two, just 12 months after the firm’s return to top class sports car racing.
After the race got underway on Saturday afternoon, it was initially the no. 17 car that led the way, chased by the pole-sitting no. 18 Porsche of Neel Jani, Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas and the no. 7 and no. 9 Audi R18 e-tron quattros.
However, as the race entered into darkness and conditions cooled down, the no. 19 entry’s pace improved, moving into second place during Hülkenberg’s second stint behind the wheel.
Towards the end of the German’s second turn (and aided by a one minute stop-go penalty for the leading no. 17 car), the white Porsche 919 Hybrid assumed its position at the head of the field, with Tandy then cementing the lead with a superb stint after midnight.
From there on in, the no. 19 car was never headed, eventually gaining a lap on the entire field thanks to the sheer pace of Bamber, Tandy and Hülkenberg during the night and cool early morning stints.
With all three Audis running into problems (and the two Toyota TS 040s never proving a threat), Porsche found itself with a strong one-two as the race moved passed lunchtime on Sunday.
Only a brief, light rain shower with one hour to go threatened to spoil the party but, with Hülkenberg back at the wheel to take the chequered flag, the no. 19 crew decided to play it safe, pitting for Michelin’s ‘hybrid’ slick intermediate tyre.
As 3pm on Sunday ticked by, the white and red Porsche 919 Hybrids pulled into formation at the Porsche Curve, crossing the line side-by-side to replicate the result from Weissach’s last overall win in 1998 and put Tandy, Bamber and Hülkenberg into the record books.
In the GTE Pro class, fortune was not with the Porsche Team Manthey 911 RSRs though. Within the first hour, a transmission problem for the no. 92 car resulted in a spectacular fire on the Mulsanne Straight, putting Patrick Pilet, Frédéric Makowiecki and Wolf Henzler immediately into retirement.
After a slow start, the no. 91 911 RSR worked its way into contention for a podium, running as high as second before numerous mechanical problems curtailed the charge for Jörg Bergmeister, Michael Christensen and Richard Lietz.
There was some cheer in the GTE Am class however, as the no. 77 Dempsey-Proton entry of Patrick Dempsey, Patrick Long and Marco Seefried secured second, giving the former his first Le Mans silverware.
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