Porsche drivers Timo Bernhard, Earl Bamber and Brendon Hartley claimed a dramatic victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours after all six LMP1 cars encountered major problems during the race.
The #2 Porsche crew only claimed the lead in the penultimate hour of an incident-filled race when Bernhard passed LMP2 racer Ho-Pin Tung in the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA.
Bernhard eventually finished over a lap clear of Tung to secure his and Bamber’s second Le Mans wins and the first for Hartley.
The trio’s late victory bid came after a motor generator unit failure in the fourth hour dropped the 919 Hybrid crew 18 laps behind the leaders.
It looked like the sister #1 car would take a dominant victory ahead of the LMP2 runners until it ground to a halt with a lack of oil pressure with three hours left on the clock. At the time it had a massive lead of 13 laps.
The early stages of the race were all about Toyota until the Japanese manufacturer’s ‘curse’ at Le Mans struck again.
First the #8 TS050 dropped out of contention in the eighth hour with an MGU issue when running second.
Work to fix the problem caused it to drop 30 laps with Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima eventually finishing ninth overall.
Neither of the other two Toyotas made it beyond half-distance.
The #7 car of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Stephane Sarrazin led from pole and was beginning to build a commanding advantage when a clutch problem caused the car to slow as it crossed the start/finish line during the 10th hour.
Kobayashi, who set a new circuit record qualifying lap, attempted unsuccessfully to get the car back to the pits.
Then, just minutes later, the #9 car was also out of the race after being hit by the #25 Manor ORECA of Simon Trummer.
The contact caused a rear-left puncture for the Toyota and Nicolas Lapierre was also unable to make it back to the pits with too much damage done to the car.
But the shortest race of all was for the ByKolles CLM crew.
Oliver Webb hit the wall on the opening tour at Terte Rouge and the car was later retired in the second hour with an engine issue.
LMP2 WIN AND SECOND OVERALL FOR #38 ORECA
Oliver Jarvis, Thomas Laurent and Ho-Pin Tung won the LMP2 class in the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA-Gibson 07 after recovering from early delays.
Jarvis ran first early on, but slipped back when he struggled to get away from his first pitstop.
That time loss was compounded when 19-year-old Le Mans rookie Laurent went off at the final part of Indianapolis and damaged the nose of the ORECA.
But Laurent was able to get back to the pits and rejoin still on the lead lap, albeit with a deficit of well over a minute.
The Rebellion Racing ORECA seized control of the race after Jarvis’s first stop, with the #31 entry of Bruno Senna, Nicolas Prost and Julien Canal initially to the fore.
The #13 sister car of Nelson Piquet Jr, Mathias Beche and David Heinemeier Hansson, soon closed up and the two cars ran either first or second for most of the first half of the race. During Nicolas Prost’s early stints, Beche was able to make up time and challenge for the lead.
But Laurent’s speed as the silver-rated driver in the #38 ORECA, compared to his equivalents in the other cars – Canal and Heinemeier Hansson – played a key role in that car gradually hauling itself back up to the front.
It achieved this during the small hours and proceeded to build up a lead, assisted by some minor problems for the Rebellion cars – including the need to fix a brake light on the #31 car.
Even when the car took the outright lead on Sunday, the pace of the #2 Porsche always meant the focus was on the class battle, and the #38 ORECA was never seriously threatened in the final third of the race, coming home two laps clear in class.
The #31 Rebellion ORECA dropped out of contention with a gearbox problem that put it in the garage for 90 minutes on Sunday morning.
The #13 car didn’t have such serious problems, but did have to have some running repairs, including the changing of a hose at the rear of the car and a pitlane penalty, and slipped to two laps behind by the closing stages of the race.
This helped the #35 Signatech ORECA, which slipped away from the three-car battle that established itself in the early running, to close the gap.
But Andre Negrao went off at Mulsanne Corner in the final hour, slipping back to fourth and allowing the #13 Rebellion to take second in class.
The sister #36 Signatech ORECA had earlier dropped back when first Gustavo Menezes went of at Mulsanne Corner and then it suffered a gearbox problem. It salvaged a distant ninth.
The #37 Jackie Chan DC ORECA of Tristan Gommendy, David Cheng and Alex Brundle had threatened to make the lead trio a lead quartet on Saturday evening.
It lost ground when Cheng had an off, but when Negrao had his off, Gommendy was able to jump ahead.
The best non-ORECA was the #32 United Autosports Ligier of Filipe Albuquerque , Will Owen and Bill Sweedler in fifth place, which had a relatively clean run but didn’t have the pace to challenge the frontrunners.
The unheralded #40 Graff ORECA of Richard Bradley, James Allen and Franck Matelli had a solid run to sixth place.
The #24 Manor car of Jean-Eric Vergne, Jonathan Hirschi and Tor Graves did have a few laps in the lead early on, but slipped back when the latter two drivers couldn’t match their ex-F1 racer team-mate.
The other Manor car, the #25 example, was eliminated overnight as a result of Trummer’s heavy contact with the #9 Toyota at the first corner.
The TDS-run #26 G-Drive ORECA that started on pole thanks to Alex Lynn’s pace in qualifying had a disastrous race.
Roman Rusinov started the car and slipped to 14th on the first lap before having a spin at the final chicane and cutting back across the runoff to rejoin the pits.
After a nose change, he rejoined, but in the second hour he attempted to lap the GTE Am #88 Proton Porsche of Khaled Al Qubaisi up the inside in the left-hander of the Porsche Curves.
The pair clashed, with the Porsche hitting the wall and Rusinov’s ORECA suffering rear-right damage that prevented him getting back to the pits.
The sister TDS ORECA, not running under the G-Drive banner, suffered a huge accident at the Porsche Curves in the 15th hour with Emmanuel Collard at the wheel.
GTE LEAD CHANGES HANDS AT THE DEATH
The GTE Pro battle went down to the wire as the polesitting #97 Aston Martin shared by Jonny Adam, Daniel Serra and Darren Turner prevailed against the #63 Chevrolet Corvette driven by Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor in a dramatic finish.
The Pier Guidi/Calado/Rugolo #51 AF Corse provided the initial challenge, having split the #97 Aston from its sister car in qualifying.
Pier Guidi burst through at the start and led until the third lap, when Thiim passed both of them in the #95 Vantage and surged forward into a lead that would last until the third hour, when the car ran over debris at Tertre Rouge and suffered a rear-left puncture with Sorensen at the wheel.
That enabled the #97 to move into a lead that was initially precarious until the fifth hour, when a usefully timed slow zone during the car’s pitstop window – called for a gyrating LMP2 at the Dunlop chicane – enabled it to increase its lead from 2s to over a minute.
Slow zones and safety cars into and through the night played a significant role in the complexion of the GTE Pro field, and throughout the first two thirds of the race the majority of the runners remained on the lead lap.
Attrition, though, would delay or rule out entirely some of the more fancied entries, including the Kaffer/Fisichella/Vilander #82 Risi Competizione Ferrari, bounced unceremoniously into the barrier at the first Mulsanne chicane by an errant prototype during the fifth hour.
The Gavin/Milner/Fassler #64 Corvette was delayed but not eliminated when Tommy Milner was sent out of the pits with an incorrectly fixed left-rear wheelnut in the eighth hour, resulting in a crunching impact with the barrier when the wheel came loose at the Porsche Curves.
Divergent pit strategies as a result of punctures, slow zones and caution periods muddled the tactical picture, and it was only in the hours after dawn that it became clear that the most likely winners were the #97 Aston, #63 Corvette and #91 Porsche, which regularly exchanged the lead during their out-of-sync pitstops.
Serra did much of the heavy lifting for the Aston crew during an early-morning stint in which he broke the lap record twice, having lost track position to an earlier safety car.
Ferrari might have been in with a hope, but James Calado tangled with the #90 GTE Am Aston Martin during Sunday morning, which meant an extended garage visit for the #51 car, and the #71 entry fell just out of contention for the lead battle after serving a penalty for exceeding track limits and being ill-served by the timing of safety cars.
The three-car battle for the lead became two when Frederic Makowiecki had to make an extra stop in the penultimate hour after picking up a puncture in the #91 Porsche.
The #63 and #97 splashed-and-dashed after the turn of the hour, teeing up a thrilling battle between Adam and Taylor which raged until the final lap.
Adam made an unsuccessful lunge at Arnage with three laps to go before Taylor skipped across the second Mulsanne the following lap.
The Corvette held onto the lead but appeared to be struggling as they exited the chicane to start the final lap, with Adam moving ahead on the start/finish straight as Taylor’s hopes were dashed by a puncture.
Taylor’s slow final lap enabled Harry Tincknell to move up from third to second in the Ganassi-run Ford GT he shared with Andy Priaulx and Luis Derani.
GTE AM – JMW FERRARI WINS BY A LAP
In GTE Am the #84 JMW Motorsport Ferrari driven by Will Stevens, Dries Vanthoor and Robert Smith rose from seventh on the class grid to win by a complete lap from the #55 Spirit of Race Ferrari shared by Duncan Cameron, Aaron Scott and Marco Cioci.
The polesitting Rees/Brandela/Philippon #50 Larbre Corvette led initially in the hands of Fernando Rees, who even got among the tail of the GTE Pro field, but it tumbled down the order once the bronze drivers got aboard.
Aston Martin’s factory-backed Am entry, in which bronze driver Paul Dalla Lana partnered Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda, strode on to a convincing lead and had established a comfortable margin when it ran over debris and suffered a damaging blow-out that required a lengthy stop.
LE MANS 24 HOURS RESULT
|1||LMP1||T.Bernhard, E.Bamber, B.Hartley||Porsche LMP Team||Porsche||367||24h01m14.075s|
|2||LMP2||H-Pin Tung, O.Jarvis, T.Laurent||Jackie Chan DC Racing||ORECA/Gibson||366||1 Lap|
|3||LMP2||N.Piquet Jr., M.Beche, D.H.Hansson||Vaillante Rebellion||ORECA/Gibson||364||3 Laps|
|4||LMP2||T.Gommendy, A.Brundle, D.Cheng||Jackie Chan DC Racing||ORECA/Gibson||363||4 Laps|
|5||LMP2||N.Panciatici, A.Negrao, P.Ragues||Signatech Alpine Matmut||Alpine/Gibson||362||5 Laps|
|6||LMP2||F.Albuquerque, W.Owen, H.de Sadeleer||United Autosports||Ligier/Gibson||362||5 Laps|
|7||LMP2||R.Bradley, J.Allen, F.Matelli||Graff||ORECA/Gibson||361||6 Laps|
|8||LMP2||J-E.Vergne, J.Hirschi, T.Graves||CEFC Manor TRS Racing||ORECA/Gibson||360||7 Laps|
|9||LMP1||A.Davidson, S.Buemi, K.Nakajima||Toyota Gazoo Racing||Toyota||358||9 Laps|
|10||LMP2||A.Belicchi, R.Lacorte, G.Sernagiotto||Cetilar Villorba Corse||Dallara/Gibson||353||14 Laps|
|11||LMP2||R.Dumas, G.Menezes, M.Rao||Signatech Alpine Matmut||Alpine/Gibson||351||16 Laps|
|12||LMP2||N.Moore, K.Chandhok, P.Hanson||Tockwith Motorsports||Ligier/Gibson||351||16 Laps|
|13||LMP2||P.Lafargue, P.Lafargue, D.Zollinger||Idec Sport Racing||Ligier/Gibson||344||23 Laps|
|14||LMP2||R.Barrichello, J.Lammers, F.van Eerd||Racing Team Nederland||Dallara/Gibson||344||23 Laps|
|15||LMP2||B.Hanley, F.Rosenqvist, H.Hedman||Dragonspeed – 10 Star||ORECA/Gibson||343||24 Laps|
|16||LMP2||J.Nicolet, P.Nicolet, E.Maris||Eurasia Motorsport||Ligier/Gibson||341||26 Laps|
|17||LMP2||N.Prost, B.Senna, J.Canal||Vaillante Rebellion||ORECA/Gibson||340||27 Laps|
|18||GTE Pro||D.Turner, J.Adam, D.Serra||Aston Martin Racing||Aston Martin||340||27 Laps|
|19||GTE Pro||A.Priaulx, H.Tincknell, P.Derani||Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK||Ford||340||27 Laps|
|20||GTE Pro||J.Magnussen, A.Garcia, J.Taylor||Corvette Racing – GM||Chevrolet||340||27 Laps|
|21||GTE Pro||R.Lietz, F.Makowiecki, P.Pilet||Porsche GT Team||Porsche||339||28 Laps|
|22||GTE Pro||D.Rigon, S.Bird, M.Molina||AF Corse||Ferrari||339||28 Laps|
|23||GTE Pro||J.Hand, T.Kanaan, D.Muller||Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA||Ford||339||28 Laps|
|24||GTE Pro||R.Briscoe, S.Dixon, R.Westbrook||Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA||Ford||337||30 Laps|
|25||GTE Pro||O.Gavin, T.Milner, M.Fassler||Corvette Racing – GM||Chevrolet||335||32 Laps|
|26||GTE Pro||N.Thiim, M.Sorensen, R.Stanaway||Aston Martin Racing||Aston Martin||334||33 Laps|
|27||GTE Am||W.Stevens, D.Vanthoor, R.Smith||JMW Motorsport||Ferrari||333||34 Laps|
|28||GTE Pro||O.Pla, S.Mucke, B.Johnson||Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK||Ford||332||35 Laps|
|29||GTE Am||M.Cioci, A.Scott, D.Cameron||Spirit of Race||Ferrari||331||36 Laps|
|30||GTE Am||T.Bell, B.Sweedler, C.MacNeil||Scuderia Corsa||Ferrari||331||36 Laps|
|31||GTE Am||R.Gunn, O.Bryant, A.Howard||Beechdean AMR||Aston Martin||331||36 Laps|
|32||GTE Am||M.Griffin, K.Sawa, Mok W.S.||Clearwater Racing||Ferrari||330||37 Laps|
|33||LMP2||V.Capillaire, M.McMurry, M.Patterson||Algarve Pro Racing||Ligier/Gibson||330||37 Laps|
|34||LMP2||M.Aleshin, S.Sirotkin, V.Shaytar||SMP Racing||Dallara/Gibson||330||37 Laps|
|35||GTE Am||M.Cairoli, M.Dienst, C.Ried||Dempsey-Proton Racing||Porsche||329||38 Laps|
|36||GTE Am||R.Bell, E.Hankey, S.Yoluc||TF Sport||Aston Martin||329||38 Laps|
|37||GTE Am||P.Lamy, M.Lauda, P.D.Lana||Aston Martin Racing||Aston Martin||329||38 Laps|
|38||GTE Am||P.Long, A.Al Faisal, M.Hedlund||Proton Competition||Porsche||329||38 Laps|
|39||GTE Am||B.Barker, N.Foster, M.Wainwright||Gulf Racing||Porsche||328||39 Laps|
|40||LMP2||M.Rojas, R.Hirakawa, J.Gutierrez||G-Drive Racing||ORECA/Gibson||327||40 Laps|
|41||GTE Am||A.Parente, H.Katoh, R.Wee||Clearwater Racing||Ferrari||327||40 Laps|
|42||GTE Am||O.Beretta, F.Castellacci, T.Flohr||Spirit of Race||Ferrari||326||41 Laps|
|43||GTE Am||A.Bertolini, N.Jonsson, T.Krohn||DH Racing||Ferrari||320||47 Laps|
|44||LMP2||E.Trouillet, E.Guibbert, J.Winslow||Graff||ORECA/Gibson||318||49 Laps|
|45||GTE Am||A.Balzan, C.Nielsen, B.Curtis||Scuderia Corsa||Ferrari||314||53 Laps|
|46||LMP2||K.Calko, R.Breukers, M.Konopka||ARC Bratislava||Ligier/Gibson||314||53 Laps|
|47||GTE Pro||A.P.Guidi, J.Calado, M.Rugolo||AF Corse||Ferrari||312||55 Laps|
|48||LMP2||J.Bleekemolen, R.Taylor, B.Keating||Keating Motorsports||Riley/Gibson||312||55 Laps|
|49||GTE Am||F.Rees, R.Brandela, C.Philippon||Larbre Competition||Chevrolet||309||58 Laps|
|–||LMP1||N.Tandy, A.Lotterer, N.Jani||Porsche LMP Team||Porsche||318||Retirement|
|–||LMP2||N.Berthon, T.Buret, F.Barthez||Panis Barthez Competition||Ligier/Gibson||296||Retirement|
|–||LMP2||E.Collard, M.Vaxiviere, F.Perrodo||TDS Racing||ORECA/Gibson||213||Retirement|
|–||GTE Pro||M.Christensen, D.Werner, K.Estre||Porsche GT Team||Porsche||179||Retirement|
|–||LMP1||J.M.Lopez, Y.Kunimoto, N.Lapierre||Toyota Gazoo Racing||Toyota||160||Retirement|
|–||LMP1||M.Conway, K.Kobayashi, S.Sarrazin||Toyota Gazoo Racing||Toyota||154||Retirement|
|–||LMP2||V.Petrov, S.Trummer, R.Gonzalez||CEFC Manor TRS Racing||ORECA/Gibson||152||Retirement|
|–||GTE Pro||T.Vilander, G.Fisichella, P.Kaffer||Risi Competizione||Ferrari||72||Retirement|
|–||LMP2||A.Lynn, R.Rusinov, P.Thiriet||G-Drive Racing||ORECA/Gibson||20||Retirement|
|–||GTE Am||K.Bachler, S.Lemeret, K.Al Qubaisi||Proton Competition||Porsche||18||Retirement|
|–||LMP1||O.Webb, M.Bonanomi, D.Kraihamer||ByKOLLES Racing Team||ENSO CLM/NISMO||7||Retirement|