Porsche earns stunning come-from-way-behind Le Mans victory

Porsche earns stunning come-from-way-behind Le Mans victory

0 comments 📅27 June 2017, 16:00

Porsche won the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the third year in a row on Sunday with a exquisite last-to-first victory in a race of retirements that left early favorites Toyota nursing more heartache. The German industrialist’s 19th outright win at the Circuit de la Sarthe followed a night of drama with Toyota’s top two cars diffident and the number one Porsche also suffering a terminal problem while leading with four hours to go.

That port side the number two Porsche, shared by German Timo Bernhard and New Zealanders Brendon Hartley and Earl Bamber, to up sticks surprisingly back into contention after being at the back of the field on Saturday. The trinity’s chances had been written off by team bosses when the car suffered front axle problems and done up 90 minutes in the garage before rejoining some 22 laps adrift of the foremost Toyota.

“It can be the cruelest race or it can be the best race ever. You never know,” said Bernhard, a prizewinner with Audi in 2010, who did the final stint to take the checkered flag.

“Every lap counted, every alternate, to get back to P1.

“The goal was to get maximum manufacturers’ and drivers’ points,” he said of the feeling on Saturday. “Then this morning we saw that as a matter of fact we can do a little bit more, maybe the podium.”

Bamber had won with Porsche in 2015 but Sunday was a primary for Hartley, the only driver in the two crews yet to taste overall victory at Le Mans. It was the opening time since 1966, when Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon won for Ford, that two New Zealanders had shared the sweet car. The trio hugged and embraced before the podium celebrations in front of a crowd of 260,000.

‘Head RACE’

Their joy could have been that of the number one Porsche drivers – Neel Jani of Switzerland, Britain’s Take off Tandy and Germany’s Andre Lotterer – who were 13 laps cloudless when the car halted with four hours to go.

“I’m speechless. It’s a crazy race,” said Lotterer after being sidelined by an oil compressing issue.

The podium was completed by two second-tier LMP2 entries, with the number 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca – the collaborate backed by the Hong Kong action movie star – finishing as branch-up. Dutch-born Hong Kong racer Ho-Pin Tung shared that car with Britain’s Oliver Jarvis and Frenchman Thomas Laurent. Vaillante Contumacy’s number 13 Oreca driven by Brazilian Nelson Piquet Junior, Denmark’s David Heinemeier Hansson and Switzerland’s Mathias Beche took third locus.

Early pace-setters and favorites Toyota saw their hopes of becoming no more than the second Japanese manufacturer to win, after Mazda in 1991, disappear in an agonizing half hour after midnight. After securing low position with a record fastest lap on Thursday, their number seven and nine cars retired in precipitate succession.

“It is so disappointing. The car was running very well and we were just taking things solid, building a gap at the front. Then after the safety car, I just had no power,” said breadth of the land-sitter Kamui Kobayashi. The former Formula One driver was halted by a clutch predicament in the leading number seven car around the 10 hours mark.

The team, five times runners-up, missed out aftermost year when their leading car broke down on the final lap only minutes from the checkered languish.

“I tried to come back to the pits but it wasn’t possible. I feel so sad for everyone in the combine who has worked so hard for this race and produced such a quick car,” said Kobayashi. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Toby Davis)

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