Porsche clinched a closely fought victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans over the weekend, placing 1-2 and putting an end to Audi’s five-year winning streak at the historic endurance race.
The stunning victory – the Stuttgart badge’s first since 1998 and 17th overall – was achieved with a relatively inexperienced line-up of drivers at the helm of the No.19 919 Hybrid. Indeed, despite being highly qualified racers, neither Formula 1 driver Nico Hülkenberg nor New Zealander Earl Bamber had ever competed at Le Mans prior to the weekend, while their teammate Nick Tandy had only done so twice in the slower GTE Pro category.
Nonetheless, the No.19 Porsche led the tense tousle between the front-running German powerhouse teams from the ninth hour, in what proved to be one of the most tightly contested Le Mans races in recent memory.
Our goal was to have one car on the podium, but a 1-2 victory is amazing. I am very proud of what we achieved
Nico Hülkenberg, driver, No.19 Porsche 919 Hybrid
Ultimately, it was a series of realtively minor glitches that prevented Audi from snatching its 14th overall victory at Circuit de la Sarthe. The most costly incident for the Joest team came just prior to 7am on Sunday when the then-second-placed No.7 R18 e-tron quattro lost part of its engine cover – the 6.56-minute repair cost André Lotterer, Marcel Fässler and Benoît Tréluyer two laps and relegated them to the third step on the podium.
That cleared the way for the number 17 Porsche driven by Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley and former-F1 driver Mark Webber to claim second place.
Reigning WEC champions, Toyota, failed to truly challenge the dominant German pack, finishing in sixth and eighth position at race end.
Newcomers Nissan also had a difficult 24 hours, with two of their front-wheel-drive GT-R LM Nismos forced to retire and the third receiving a DNF classification for failing to complete at least 70 per cent of the distance covered by the winner.
Following the weekend’s double-points race, the 2015 World Endurance Championship standings are as follows: Porsche is in first place with 140 points, Audi in second with 124 and Toyota in third with 71.
No.19 Porsche 919 Le Mans stats
Average speed: 247.1km/h
Number of laps: 395
Distance covered: 5383.5km
First time a number 19 car has won at Le Mans
Second time a car starting in third place has won