le mans 24 hour race report: videos and images

1y ago


It's difficult not to be clichéd about Le Mans. As ever with this legendary event, the constant twisting and turning meant that even with all bar one of the top LMP1 cars retired by midday on Sunday, the result was still uncertain until the chequered flag fell. As it was, Timo Bernhard kept it on the black stuff to record Porsche's 19th overall victory, and third in a row. Second and third steps on the podium were filled by LMP2 cars, something that would have been unheard of at the start of the race.

Saturday evening - and just a few hours into the race - Earl Bamber, Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley must have thought it was game over. Their car was in the pits with no drive from the front wheels, and they were about to be a depressing 18 laps behind the lead Toyota.

But there were still championship points to be salvaged and, as last year's race proved, you never know what's going to happen at Le Mans. So back out they went, stock last.

And sure enough, the unthinkable happened. First, both the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing cars suffered problems and were forced out of the lead.

So then it was the turn of Nick Tandy, Neel Jani and André Lotterer to take up the race lead, and because they were effectively the only LMP1 car left in any realistic running, their lead was safe and enormous. Meanwhile, Bamber, Bernhard and Hartley kept plugging away.

And then more drama, as shortly after 11am, Lotterer stopped on track in the high noon heat with a lead of 13 laps. He had radio'd with “low oil pressure” and was told to switch off the engine, but the battery didn't have enough charge to let him limp home. Game over.

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So now the focus shifted to Bamber, Bernhard and Hartley. They were still racing, but were a long way off the race-leading LMP2 car. Could this be the year an LMP2 car took the overall victory? Not if Porsche had anything to do with it: challenge accepted. After 325 laps, the 919 still wasn't on the same lap as the leaders, but the 919 began to reel the gap in, eventually passing the Oliver Jarvis, Ho-Pin Tung and Thomas Laurent car for the overall lead with less than an hour to go.

And that's the way it stayed at the front of the field, with Timo Bernhard bringing the car across the line. 367 laps, 5,001 km, 19th overall win, third in a row, and not a dry eye in the house.

Elsewhere, the the 911 RSR continued its strong debut year. Sadly, only one factory car finished, as the RSR of Michael Christensen, Kévin Estre and Dirk Werner crashed heavily in the night, but Patrick Pilet, Richard Lietz and Frédéric Makowiecki managed to bring the sister RSR home in fourth place.

Frustratingly, they had been all set for a podium, but with an hour to go had to make an unscheduled pit stop for fresh tyres because the car had run over debris out on track. Still, the GTE-Pro class gave the crowd something to cheer right to the end of the race, as the class win was only settled on the last lap.

Ferrari dominated in GTE-Am, locking out all three podium positions and having four cars in the top five. Considering this, the Dempsey-Proton Racing car with Matteo Cairoli, Christian Ried and Marvin Dienst at the wheel can count it a successful weekend, as it finished sixth and only two laps off a podium place.