Porsche won a spectacular 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The German works team had all the odds against them already before the race, when they got well and truly beaten by Toyota Gazoo Racing in the qualifying, and they were even beaten by Toyota on the fastest lap in the race too.
But… to finish first, first you have to finish. And it has rarely been more true than at this year’s Le Mans race.
Not a single one of the LMP1 cars had a trouble free race, and the winning car #2 with Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard, and Earl Bamber had a total time in the pits – including the refueling, driver- and tire changes – of an hour and 38 minutes. They had to change the hybrid part of the car, when it failed at 18:30 Saturday evening.
Toyota #8 finished the race in second place in the LMP1 category with Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Anthony Davidson, but lost even more time due to another hybrid problem on their car.
Toyota #7 and #9 didn’t see the chequered flag at all, after the first mentioned had a problem with the clutch, and the latter collided with CEFC Manor TRS Racing #25 and as a result of that, got a puncture. In trying to get back to the pits, Nico Lapierre drove way too fast, and damaged both gearbox and a lot of other things at the back of the car. When it finally ran out of battery power 500 meters from the pit entry, it was game over for them.
ByKolles Racing Team #4 had to say goodbye very early on. Oliver Webb was hit by Nicolas Lapierre on the very first lap, and received a puncture. They managed to drive a total of 7 laps for the small privateer team, before the engine had boiled itself – perhaps because of the slow in-lap for Webb following the puncture.
The biggest surprise – and on the other hand, not – was the LMP2 field. There had been many rumbling that this might be the year where you saw an LMP2 car on the overall podium. But to see two LMP2 cars on the podium hadn’t been forecast by many.
Jackie Chan DC Racing #38 with Oliver Jarvis, Ho-Pin Tung and Thomas Laurent drove close to a perfect race, and finished as winners of the LMP2 category, followed by Vaillante Rebellion #13 with David Heinemeier Hansson, Mathias Beche and Nelson Piquet JR, and then the other Jackie Chan DC Racing #37 with Alex Brundle, David Cheng and Tristan Gommendy. These three cars finished on second, third and fourth places overall respectively.
In fact you have look all the way down to 9th position to find Toyota #8, so a total of 7 LMP2 cars, and 9 laps between the only LMP1 finishing cars.
Aston Martin Racing #97 with Darren Turner, Jonny Adam and Daniel Serra won an exciting race in the GTE Pro category, where all 5 manufacturers were fighting side by side. In fast we had all 5 manufacturers in the top-5. Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #67 with Andy Priaulx, Harry Tincknell and Pipo Derani finished second, ahead of Corvette Racing #63 with Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor. Three laps before the chequered flag, we saw AMR #97 and Corvette #63 side by side and bumping each other a little. If that was the cause of Jordan Taylor’s tires were so worn, that they couldn’t keep air any more, we probably will never know. But the fact was that Corvette Racing went all the way from first to third, when they were hit by a puncture on the final lap. The lap before he had been a trip through the gravel trap, so perhaps the puncture already started to show there.
AMR #95 with Nicki Thiim, Marco Sørensen and Richie Stanaway had a bad race, which looked quite good until 8:20 Sunday morning. Marco Sørensen had a puncture early Saturday evening. But when Stanaway crashed the car into the tire wall at the end of the Mulsanne straight, and they had to do a 20 minutes repair work on the car in the pits, any chance of a podium was gone, in this ultra competitive category.
JMW Motorsport Ferrari #84 with Rob Smith, Will Stevens and Dries Vanthoor took the victory in GTE Am ahead of Spirit of Race Ferrari #55 with Dane Cameron, Marco Cioci and Andrew Scott, followed by Scuderia Corsa Ferrari #62 Townsend Bell, Cooper MacNeil and Bill Sweedler in third. JMW had a long duel with AMR #98 but the green AMR car got a puncture Saturday evening, and lost any chance of a podium.
Scuderia Corsa Ferrari #65 with Christina Nielsen, Alessandro Balzan and Bret Curtis never really was in the fight for the GTE Am victory. The Danish, Italian, American combo quickly advanced from P16 to P7. The team however was so down on the average pace, that they couldn’t advance any higher up the field, and instead were heading for something around 10th position. About one hour before the finish of the race, Alessandro Balzan was hit by Larbre Competition #50 which cost a damaged rear suspension on the Ferrari. The car was repaired but finished on a very disappointing 14th out of the 15 cars in the class, that were classified.
Overall we just saw 11 cars retire, whereas the majority were either self-inflicted accident damage or as the innocent party, being hit by competitors. Only two of the retirees were down to mechanical failures of the cars.
In the coming time, we will bring further analysis of the race here on Racing24-7.net.
Update – Vaillante Rebellion #13 got disqualified due to illegal modification of its bodywork. That moves Jackie Chan DC Racing #37 up to 3rd overall and 2nd in class, with Signatech Alpine Matmut #35 taking the final podium spot in LMP2.