Why Le Mans 2015 is Porsche’s biggest race in years
For motor-racing fans the world over, the biggest race of the calendar year is just days away. Le Mans 2015 is set to be some spectacle: allied by ever-competitive GT and LMP2 classes, LMP1 will surely carry the most excitement.
Buoyed for the first time in years by a sizable privateer presence on the grid at La Sarthe, the elite class championship is beautifully balanced between the big three manufacturers of Porsche, Audi and Toyota going into the race, with Nissan also entering the fold with their long-awaited debut to this season’s top level of racing. Better still, three of those four works teams will be running a third car for the twice-round-the-clock action.
Anticipation is therefore high ahead of the 83rd edition of the great race, yet this year’s event is more important for Porsche than most. In fact, I’m willing to say the 2015 race is Porsche’s most important race in years – far bigger than ‘The return’ last year. While Porsche’s reintroduction that summer to the top class at Le Mans – the first time since 1998 – was a momentous occasion for Weissach fans, invoking glorious memories of victory at the same circuit by Attwood, Bell, Ickx et al, last year wasn’t about winning. It was about being competitive.
And competitive they were, right up until the closing stages of the race when the number 20 car piloted by Mark Webber retired, suffering a fatally-damaged powertrain. Then, the no.14 car also had problems and had to return to the pits with a gearbox failure. Porsche’s mechanics did eventually get the car back out on track to complete the final laps of the race (though not officially), which famously prompted a standing ovation from the rival Audi team from just down the pit wall.
This year, the situation is different. The entire Porsche team (including drivers) have that experience of top-class racing at La Sarthe from last year, and can no longer rely on simply being the new boys. Much has also been learnt – and improved – on the vastly complicated yet expertly fast 919 hybrid racer too, which this time is expected to stand up to the rigours of the gruelling 24-hour sprint.
Even the addition of a third car to the grid, piloted by Total 911 columnist Nick Tandy, Formula One driver Nico Hulkenberg and former Porsche Junior Earl Bamber, will pile the pressure on Weissach, who are quite literally throwing all their resources at the race. The team have made a good start to proceedings too, finishing fastest at the test day.
Historically too, Porsche’s racing ancestry is vast. As well as being 16-time outright winners of Le Mans, the everlasting success of the 911 in GT racing has ensured the marque has remained a sought-after acquisition for racing and sportscar fans for decades. So much so, when it comes to the racing/sales dictum of “win on Sunday, sell on Monday,” few have managed to do it quite like Porsche.
Even today, Zuffenhausen continue to market their past racing pedigree to aid business in the salesroom and, off the back of record worldwide sales across the range (April sales were up 6% from last year), a bad showing at Le Mans will only damage that distinguished reputation. And just what is a ‘bad’ race? Well, for Weissach, only a win will be deemed successful. There’s no more room for excuses, so only the top step of the podium will do come 3pm on Sunday 14th June 2015.
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