Porsche wins 84th Running of Le Mans – Porsche’s 18th overall win, in 2016

THE NO. 2 PORSCHE 919 HYBRID HOLDS ON TO WIN the 84th running of Le Mans.  This is the 18th overall win for Porsche, in 2016 – but this wasn’t the expected result near race end, of course. . .

It’s called “The 24 Hours of Le Mans” — not “The 23 Hours and 57 Minutes of Le Mans”:  Toyota Suffers the Agony of Defeat in the 84th Running of Le Mans 2016

The legendary, punishing marathon on the Circuit de la Sarthe approached the end of its 23rd and final hour.  Then agony slithered on to the track.  The No. 5 Toyota TS050 Hybrid of Anthony Davidson (GB), Sebastien Buemi (CH) and Kazuki Nakajima (JP) was well on its way clinching glorious Le Mans victory.  The best that Porsche could hope for was a P2 podium.

But the No. 5 Toyota ended up instead clinching defeat from the jaws of victory via an unforced error:  The Toyota No. 5 coasted to a stop on track from powertrain failure, with 3 minutes remaining, on the penultimate lap of the race.  It would have been Toyota’s first-ever Le Mans triumph.

Toyota Motorsport Director Rob Leupen speculated on the possible source of the malfunction shortly after the race:  “It could be around the turbo side but we don’t know exactly what it is.”

[UPDATE:  Toyota in fact confirmed this days later:  “Car No. 5 suffered a technical defect on a connector on the air line between the turbo charger and the intercooler, causing a loss of turbo charger control,” said a spokesman for Toyata Motorsport.]

The No. 2 Porsche 919 Sweeps Past the Heartbreakingly Disabled No. 5 Toyota TS050

Earlier in the race, Marc Lieb drove a grueling but stout quadruple stint, leading at times in the No. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid.  He turned the car over to Neel Jani at 11:50 hours, after running 331 laps.  The Swiss Porsche works driver pitted to refuel after 345, 359 and 373 laps, respectively.

After 381 laps, Jani had to pit to rectify a slow puncture and then, in the closing moments of the race, a P2 finish seemed to be the crestfallen result.   But then it happened.

Porsche garners 18th overall win at 84th Le Mans 2016: No. 2 919 in P1 crossing finish line. Credit: Porsche AG
Credit: Porsche AG

In front of over 263,000 spectators at La Sarthe, the No. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Romain Dumas (FR), Neel Jani (CH) and Marc Lieb (DE) swept past the heartbreakingly disabled No. 5 Toyota and took the checkers to win the 84th running of the 24 Heures du Mans.  Jani crossed the finish line first, headed for Victory Lane and the Winner’s Circle, incredulous.

Incidentally, Dumas, Jani and Lieb also garnered the 662 kW (900m ps) 919 Hybrid Prototype’s maiden win in Brazil during the 2014 season.  This came close on the heels of Porsche’s announcement of “Mission 2014.  Our Return.

“Congratulations to our sister car and the Porsche Team; it is a well-deserved win,” said Timo Bernhard.  “They fought for the lead for 24 hours and were very close in the end.  Of course I feel sorry for everybody at the Toyota Team.  To lose a race this way is brutal.  We were not lucky either and I also feel sorry for Mark, Brendon and our crew.”

Porsche garners 18th overall win at 84th Le Mans 2016: 18th Victory group photo. Credit: PAG
Credit: Porsche AG

Porsche is Defending Champion of the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans

The highly coveted Le Mans trophy will stay on display at Porsche HQ for the second consecutive year.  This is because Porsche, as constructor, is the record holder and title defender of the event.  Only last year in 2015, Porsche factory works drivers Earl Bamber (NZ), Nico Hülkenberg (DE) and Nick Tandy (GB) took first-place honors in their Porsche 919 Hybrid.

To put things in perspective after this unprecedented and triumphant 18th victory, the first-ever overall Le Mans victory for Porsche hearkens back to June 14th, 1970.  Hans Herrmann and Richard Attwood won the race overall for Porsche in their 917 KH Coupé.

Porsche garners 18th overall win at 84th Le Mans 2016: No. 1 919 in pit at dawn. Credit: Porsche AG
Credit: Porsche AG

The No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid Wasn’t as Lucky as the No. 2

The other Porsche Prototype, the No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid, wasn’t as lucky as its podium-topping sister car, however.  Reigning Endurance World Champions Timo Bernhard (DE), Brendon Hartley (NZ) and Mark Webber (AU) piloted the No. 1 car.

The No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid suffered a water-pump failure.  It was pushed into the garage for repairs in the evening hours.  Despite leading early on in the race, the No. 1 car consequently fell back 39 laps starting at 11:20 hours, driven at the time by Mark Webber, after 285 laps.

According to Webber, “I am very proud of the team, proud of the mechanics who worked so hard.  It’s an honor to drive for Porsche in Le Mans again.  It wasn’t our day — we were unlucky with the water pump.  That was the big problem for us; we lost a lot of time. But Timo’s and Brendon’s drives were awesome.  In the end we all prayed for car 2 and of course I’m happy for our teammates and Porsche.  But what has happened to Toyota today, is really hard to take and you have to feel for them.”

Porsche garners 18th overall win at 84th Le Mans 2016: No. 1 919 emerges from forest. Credit: Porsche AG
Credit: Porsche AG

The No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid was finally released.  Mark Webber refueled at 298 and 311 laps, respectively.  The car did suffer subsequent damage related to the water-pump failure, but it soldered on nonetheless.  Webber turned the wheel over to Timo Bernhard after 324 laps.  Bernhard took a final splash and dash after 337 laps.  Bernhard hung on to finish the the race.

The No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid fought back to finish 13th overall.  The No. 1 car came in fifth place in its top LMP1 class as a result.

The Porsche Works Team Leads in Points after Le Mans 2016

As a constructor, Porsche earned a total of 71 Le Mans points in the FIA WEC Endurance Championship manufacturers’ standings.  Twice as many points are awarded for the Le Mans 24-Hour race.  This is compared to the other eight six-hour races of the WEC Championship.

Porsche leads the constructors’ standings with 127 points ahead of Audi (95) and Toyota (79).  In the drivers’ standings, Dumas, Jani and Lieb have garnered 94 points in total, to lead by 39 points.