Porsche Wins High Drama 24 Hours of Le MansWhen the No. 2 Porsche was pushed back into the garage a mere three and a half hours into the race, the assumption was an opportunity for victory was gone; that assumption, like most that happen at Le Mans, was dead wrong.
The Toyotas clearly had the faster car, as evidenced by the #7’s record-breaking pole lap, but did they have the reliability?
Just after midnight, the #7 slowed on circuit. Driver Kamui Kobayashi tried desperately to make it back to pitlane, but eventually came to a stop and exited the car.
Not long after, its sister car, the #9, was hit by an LMP2 car in the Dunlop Chicane. A puncture and gearbox problem brought that car to a grinding halt only an hour after the retirement of the #7.
The #1 Porsche took control of the category through the early Sunday morning hours, but by mid-day a loss of oil pressure ended that car’s race.
As a result of the LMP1 attrition, the #38 ORECA (an LMP2 car) became the overall leader over the #2 Porsche, which was several laps down after a 65-minute trip to the garage earlier in the race.
The #2 ran down the #38 and took the overall lead with less than two hours remaining in the race. Driver Timo Bernhard never let go from there and took the checkered flag for Porsche, its third-straight Le Mans victory and 19th in total.
The #8 Toyota, the only other LMP1 still running at the checkered flag, was second (9th overall), nine laps behind the Porsche.
What was a hotly contested class on its own became a race for the overall podium.
The two Vaillante Rebellion ORECAs (#13 and #31) were the early leaders, but the two Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECAs (#37 and #38) held with them.
First the #31 had to go to the garage for a gearbox issue Sunday morning. Shortly thereafter, the #13 made contact with the #49 Ligier. This earned the #13 a 10-second penalty on pit lane. It was poor timing, because right then, the #13 (Piquet Jr.) was in a good fight for second with the #35 Signatech Alpine Matmut.
This all allowed the #38 to move into the overall lead when the #1 Porsche dropped out of the race. It eventually fell to second overall behind the #2 Porsche, but still finished first in class.
Piquet Jr. was able to retake second and pull away from the #37 (Gommendy) who finished third. That made it two Jackie Chan DC Racing cars on the LMP2 podium.
Aston Martin was strong when it needed it the most. The #97 Aston Martin won its class from pole, but it wasn’t a simple affair.
The #97 and #95 team cars often took turns at the front of LMGTE Pro, as did the #51 and #71 AF Corse teammates.
Then, on Sunday morning, a dark horse emerged: the #63 Corvette.
It grabbed the lead with Magnussen at the wheel, who then turned it over to Jordan Taylor at the final pit stop with 45 minutes left in the race. Taylor exited pit lane with the #97 (Adam) right on his rear bumper.
After 24 hours of racing, this class came down to the final 10 minutes. The two went side-by-side through Arnage, making slight contact, but Taylor held the spot. Taylor then went through the gravel at the second chicane, on his own, and came out right next to Adam. This gave the Aston the momentum it needed to pass the Corvette in the final turn as the pair took the white flag nose-to-tail.
The trip through the chicane did the Corvette no favors; a flat tire and damaged suspension slowed Taylor on the final lap, allowing the #67 Ford (Tincknell) to come through and claim second behind the Aston. Taylor limped the #63 to the finish in third.
JMW Motorsport seemed the only ones to have this race under control. Its #84 Ferrari charged to the class lead Saturday evening, then stayed out of trouble and executed its pit stops perfectly.
The #55 Spirit of Race Ferrari chased the #84 through the second half of the race, but could not make any up ground and finished second, two laps behind the class winner.
The #62 Ferrari from Scuderia Corsa floated inside the top five throughout its race. In the end, it fended off the #99 Aston Martin and #77 Porsche to finish third and make it an all-Ferrari LMGTE Am podium.
Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org Ride Long and Prosper!