Le Mans: Porsche LMP1 seals historic 1-2 victory with Audi in third

Le Mans: Porsche LMP1 seals historic 1-2 victory with Audi in third
Podium, LMP1 - Le Mans 24 Hours at Circuit Des 24 Heures - Le Mans - France  © Nick Dungan - AdrenalMedia.com

Podium, LMP1 – Le Mans 24 Hours at Circuit Des 24 Heures – Le Mans – France
© Nick Dungan – AdrenalMedia

France, Sunday 14th June 2015 – Porsche sealed an historic victory today in the 83rd running of the Le Mans 24 Hours, the German marque finishing a convincing first and second in front of 263,500 spectators to break Audi’s stranglehold on the jewel in the crown of sportscar racing.  Nico Hülkenberg became the first driver to win the race overall at his first attempt since Laurent Aiello in 1998, the year of Porsche’s last overall victory, and the first current F1 driver to win since Johnny Herbert and Bertrand Gachot in 1991.

The Formula One driver, together with his team mates Nick Tandy of Britain and Earl Bamber of New Zealand, didn’t put a foot wrong in their No. 19 Porsche 919 Hybrid and headed home Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard in the No.17 entry.

Audi was 3rd and 4th after uncharacteristically encountering a number of minor setbacks in the second half of the race when all three cars ended up in the garage at some point for some repairs or component checks.  2014 winners Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler had to settle for 3rd place this year but Lotterer had the consolation of setting a new race lap record of 3m17.475 on lap 337.

The no18 Porsche 919, which had started the race on pole position, wasn’t able to capitilise on the pace the team had shown in qualifying and practice.  After several excursions and other issues the car driven by Neel Jani, Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb came home in 5th place, four laps behind.

The no9 Audi, which had been the leading challenger to the Porsche powertrain, also hit technical trouble and after a long stop to fit a new driveshaft the car took the chequered flag in 7th overall in between the two Toyotas

World Champions Toyota couldn’t fulfil their dreams of Le Mans glory in 2015 but both TS040s got to the chequered flag in 6th and 8th places, the no2 Toyota finishing 8 laps behind the winners and one lap ahead of the no1 TS040.

Nissan had to work extremely hard on the race debut of the GT-R LM NISMO at Le Mans and in the WEC and it was always going to be a challenge for the Japanese team.  However the no22 car of Harry Tincknell, Michael Krumm and Alex Buncombe took the chequered flag to achieve one of the goals set ahead of the event.

Rebellion Racing had a successful debut of the new AER powered R-One with a 1-2 finish in the LMP1 Privateer class.  The two cars did suffer from teething issues but the Swiss team battled hard to bring both cars home with the Dominik Kraihamer, Daniel Abt and Alexandre Imperatori standing on the top step of the podium.  The no4 Bykolles CLM-AER had a few problems during the race and only completed 260 laps and wasn’t classified at the chequered flag.

Podium, LMP2 - Le Mans 24 Hours at Circuit Des 24 Heures - Le Mans - France

Podium, LMP2 –  KCMG wins at Le Mans 24 Hours  – Photo – Nick Dungan

 

LMP2

In the LMP2 class KCMG’s Nicolas Lapierre, Matt Howson and Richard Bradley reigned supreme and the drivers and their ORECA 05 Nissan won with a 48s advantage over their nearest rivals.  This was despite an excursion off track in the 22nd hour of the race and an earlier drive through penalty for changing the steering wheel while the car was being refuelled.  The car took the chequered flag to claim the Oreca 05’s second ever win and the car’s first win on the world championship stage.

Second place went to last year’s winners in the No.38 JOTA Sport entry of Oliver Turvey, Simon Dolan and Mitch Evans – the latter being the third of the four New Zealand drivers entered in the race to mount the podium. Third in class was the Russian G-Drive Racing entry of Sam Bird, Roman Rusinov and Julien Canal.

The second G-Drive Racing Ligier finished 4th in class, but with the JOTA Sport Gibson being from the ELMS, the Latin American crew claimed 3rd in the WEC points.

Extreme Speed Motorsports finished in 7th and 10th places in the LMP2 but the two Honda powered Ligiers claimed championship points for 4th and 5th because the cars ahead of them were not WEC entries.  The no35 Oak Racing Ligier-Nissan was the final WEC LMP2 entry to be classified one place and one lap behind the no30 ESM.

Three of the full season WEC entries in the LMP2 class failed to make it to the chequered flag.  The no42 Strakka Racing Dome S103 suffered gear box issues, while the no43 Sard Morand Morgan suffered an oil pressure sensor failure.  Reigning ELMS Champions in the no36 Signatech Alpine A450b completed 110 laps before coming to a halt.

With double points on offer the championship positions look a little different after just three races of the eight race World Endurance Championship.

Porsche now hold a 16 point lead in the world championship, with 140 points over Audi’s 124 and Toyota’s 71.  Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler maintain their lead in the Driver’s World Championship, currently standing on 80 points against Nick Tandy’s 60 points.  The Englishman took 50 points thanks to his win today and this is added to the points gained for KCMG in Silverstone and Porsche in Spa.

In LMP2 Matthew Howson and Richard Bradley hold a slim four point lead over Gustavo Yacaman, Pippo Derani and Ricardo Gonzalez, who scored 30 points in the no28 G-Drive Ligier.  KCMG hold a similar 4 point advantage over the no28 G-Drive as the teams and drivers look forward to the next race in Germany at the Nurburgring at the end of August.

LMGTE Pro – Corvette Wins but Ferrari open up title chase

Until the final two hours of the Le Mans 24 Hours, a race which had witnessed an amazing battle between all four manufacturers represented in the LMGTE Pro and Am classes, it looked as though 2014 victors AF Corse and Aston Martin Racing would each be repeating their visit to the top step of the podium.  But, Le Mans can be a cruel mistress and the twice-round-the-clock classic was not kind to either team.

Instead, a well-deserved victory went in GTE Pro to the No.64 Corvette Racing entry of Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Jordan Taylor.  Led by Briton Gavin, who celebrated his 5th Le Mans class victory, the trio battled with current GTE World Champions, AF Corse Ferrari, throughout the race.  With less than two hours to run the No.51 Ferrari 458 Italia of Gianmaria Bruni, Toni Vilander and Giancarlo Fisichella lost 30 minutes in the pits due to a gearbox problem and in the end they were forced to settle for third place behind their AF Corse team mates in the No.71 – Davide Rigon, James Calado and Olivier Beretta.   The double points on offer were enough to ensure that Ferrari, AF Corse and its drivers remain at the top of the GT title chase – for the moment!

Fourth in the LMGTE Pro category was the No.95 Aston Martin of Marco Sorensen, Nicki Thiim and Christoffer Nygaard which had fought back after losing time early in the race to a power steering leak.  Also delayed due to a mechanical issue was the 5th placed No.91 Porsche Team Manthey 911 RSR of Richard Lietz, Michael Christensen and Jörg Bergmeister – a stubborn right rear wheel which would not come off its hub lost the Porsche enough time to drop it down the order.

The final finisher in the Pro class was the No.99 Aston Martin Vantage of Fernando Rees, Alex MacDowall and Richie Stanaway which had been a challenger for victory until the 14th hour.  Rees was in the lead of the LMGTE Pro class when he made heavy contact with an LMP2 car.  He made it back to the pits but lost considerable time for repairs.

One of the big stories of the first quarter of the race was the fiery demise of the No.92 Porsche Team Manthey 911 RSR.  Patrick Pilet was forced to pull the LMGTE Pro car over to the side of the track at the first chicane along the Hunaudières as his Porsche first lost oil and then erupted in flames.  Pilet made a speedy exit and the car was an instant retirement.  Unfortunately the same fate befell another Porsche two hours and 25 minutes into the race, with Christian Ried’s Le Mans 24 Hours in the No.88 Abu Dhabi Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR coming to a smoky end while under the second safety car.

 

LMGTE Am-Ferrari profit while Aston Martin falls at the last hurdle

Pedro Lamy, just recovering from chicken pox, and his team mates Paul Dalla Lana and Mathias Lauda, were winners in class of the first two rounds of the 2015 WEC and they utterly dominated LMGTE Am…until 47 minutes before the chequered flag when Canadian Dalla Lana crashed the No.98 Aston Martin Vantage heavily at Raccordement and immediately exited the race.

SMP Racing’s No.72 Ferrari 458 of Andrea Bertolini, Victor Shaytar and Aleksei Basov were in exactly the right place to benefit from the heartache that befell the Aston Martin.  They had been right on its heels and took the class victory a lap ahead of the No.77 Dempsey Proton Porsche 911 RSR of Patrick Dempsey, Patrick Long and Marco Seefried, the latter making his debut at the 24 Hours.  The Scuderia Corse Ferrari of Segal, Bell and Sweedler was third – all three Americans making their debut at Le Mans in 2015.

Other cars to run into trouble included the No.96 Aston Martin Vantage V8 which made very contact with the wall at the exit of the Porsche Curves at 07h40 on Sunday morning.  The German was transported to the medical centre with complaints of back pain, and the car was retired on the spot.  Also a retirement was the No.50 Larbre Competition Corvette C7R of Roda, Ruberti and Poulsen which had terminal gearbox trouble.

The ceremonial start for the race had been given at 15h00 in front of a record crowd of 263,500 spectators by Bill Ford, Executive Chairman of Ford Motor Company.  On Friday the company revealed its LMGTE car which will join the Aston Martin, Ferrari and Porsche entries in the LMGTE Pro category in the 2016 WEC.  Seeing three of its competitors going three abreast down the Hunaudières can only have whetted the appetite of Ford!

The results absolutely throw into play once again the potential outcome of the World Endurance Championship and other title chases, as the WEC moves towards its midway point.  Round 4, the 6 Hours of Nürburgring on 30th August, promises to be even more exciting than the previous three…if that’s possible!

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