Porsche has secured the top spot at the 85th instalment of the Le Mans 24-Hours race, snatching victory once again from rivals Toyota in what was a race of perseverance, filled with drama from start to end.
The (Number 2) Porsche 919 Hybrid, piloted Earl Bamber, Timo Bernhard, and Brendon Hartley crossed the line at 1830 hrs on Saturday after completing 367 laps of the Circuit de la Sarthe.
After an enormous effort by the team, the trio sliced through the field from 56th position after suffering from front axle problems and forced to be in the pits for over an hour, to overall victory.
The latest win marks Porsche’s 19th overall win in the world’s toughest race and the third in a row meaning the German manufacturer can now keep the famous trophy. Porsche is the 'winningest' team in Le Mans history, ahead of Audi which have 13 overall wins.
Porsche’s Number 1 919 Hybrid car stopped on track soon after having led the race for more than ten hours, suffering a major mechanical failure.
Toyota Gazoo Racing, on the other hand, endured a painful Le Mans 24 Hours in 2017, in which two of its three TS050 Hybrids did not reach the chequered flag while the remaining car, piloted by Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima finished ninth, after completing 358 laps.
Hopes were high of a first Toyota win at Le Mans when, the pole position-winning (Number 7) TS050 Hybrid of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Stéphane Sarrazin led for the opening 10 hours but it retired in the wee hours of Saturday, following a clutch problem.
An accident put the Number 9 car of Nicolas Lapierre, Yuji Kunimoto and José María López out just minutes after the Number 7 stopped, when it was hit from behind by an LMP2 car, causing a puncture and damaging the hydraulics. That left the car unable to shift gear and it retired on track just a few hundred metres from the pits at 0135 hrs .
The Number 8 car of Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima had also been in contention for the victory for almost eight hours until an issue on the front motor cost it almost two hours in the pits. It rejoined and finished ninth, setting the fastest lap late in the race.
The curse for Toyota at Le Mans continues, after coming close to victory five times in the past, most agonizingly in 2016, when the lead Toyota retired with just five minutes remaining in the race. Toyota showed brilliant pace and reliability leading up to Le Mans, with the Number 8 TS050 winning the first two outings of the 2017 World Endurance Championship, at Silverstone and Spa-Francorchamps respectively.
Arguably, the Cinderella story of 2017 is that of the (Number 38) Jackie Chan DC Racing’s Oreca-07 LMP2 car driven by Ho-Pin Tung, Oliver Jarvis, and Thomas Laurent which took the overall race lead after the misfortunes of Porsche and Toyota during the night stint of the race.
The Number 38 car held the lead for several hours and looked to be the first ever lower class car to take overall Le Mans honours, until the chasing Number 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid (which pitted for more than an hour earlier in the race) passed it with around one hour left in the race.
The Number 38 car is the first LMP 2 car to podium at Le Mans ahead of the third place Oreca-07 LMP 2 car from the Vaillante Rebellion race team.
Here's the final classification after 24 hours of racing:
- Porsche LMP Team (Bernhard / Bamber / Hartley): #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid LMP1 (367 laps)
- Jackie Chan DC Racing (Tung / Laurent / Jarvis): #38 Oreca 07 - Gibson LMP2 (366 laps)
- Vaillante Rebellion (Piquet Jr / Heinemeier Hansson / Beche): #13 Oreca 07 - Gibson LMP2 (364 laps)
- Jackie Chan DC Racing (Cheng / Gommendy / Brundle): #37 Oreca 07 - Gibson LMP2 (363 laps)
- Signatech Alpine Matmut (Panciatici / Ragues / Negrão): #35 Alpine A470 - Gibson LMP2 (362 laps)
- United Autosports (Owen / De Sadeleer / Albuquerque): #32 Ligier JSP217 - Gibson LMP2 D (362 laps)
- Graff (Allen / Matelli / Bradley): #40 Oreca 07 - Gibson LMP2 (361 laps)
- CEFC Manor TRS Racing (Graves / Hirschi / Vergne): #24 Oreca 07 - Gibson LMP2 (360 laps)
- Toyota Gazoo Racing (Buemi / Davidson / Nakajima): #8 Toyota TS050 - Hybrid LMP1 (358 laps)
- Cetilar Villorba Corse (Lacorte / Sernagiotto / Belicchi): #47 Dallara P217 - Gibson LMP2 (353 laps)