Porsche wins Toyota’s Le Mans 24 Hours

Posted by devesh.shobha at 10:31 am on Monday June 20, 2016

Teary-eyed Hugues de Chaunac after Toyota #5 stopped on the last lap

“Loss of power”. That’s the last thing you would want to hear on the team radio on the second to last lap; after being in a closely fought battle for almost 24 hours at the gruelling Circuit de la Sarthe. But it happened to Toyota this year. What could have been the team’s long overdue first-ever Le Mans 24 Hours victory turned into a nightmare, when its lead car #5 came to a complete standstill, three minutes from the 24hour mark.

After leading the race for more than 6 hours towards the end, Kazuki Nakajima radioed back to his team about the mechanical issues his #5 car had been facing on the penultimate lap of the race. Soon, Nakajima started to slow down and the charging Porsche #2, piloted by pole-sitter Neel Jani, rapidly cut down Toyota’s lead, eventually passing the stranded TS 050 on the start/finish straight.

It was a moment of disbelief for the Japanese team, and even as Nakajima frantically tried reviving his car, right in front of a packed grand stand, the reactions back in the garage said it all. A car that had run strongly for 23 hours and 55 minutes, and was on its way to give Toyota its first-ever Le Mans victory, had broken down in the final few minutes of the race. And although Nakajima did manage to limp his car back to take the chequered flag, it wasn’t even classified as it failed to lap the 13.6km circuit in less than six minutes, thereby getting disqualified.

Although Toyota missed out on a well-deserved victory, it did have the stronger race strategy. Firstly, by managing 14 laps between stops, it managed to stay out for an extra lap compared to its rivals. And despite being more efficient, it had the pace to challenge for the ultimate victory. However, they didn’t really manage to put it all together for the entire duration of the race.

This cruel turn of events meant Porsche clinched its 18th overall Le Mans victory, and in doing so, defended its coveted 2015 trophy. As a consolation for the Japanese team, the #6 TS 050 finished second in the LMP1 class, and Audi continued its Le Mans rostrum streak after inheriting the podium from Toyota.

Porsche Team (#2 Porsche 919 Hybrid) Romain Dumas, Marc Lieb and Neel Jani

On their missed shot at Toyota’s maiden Le Mans victory, Toshio Sato, Team president said, “I am incredibly proud of our team effort, not just today but since Le Mans last year. Thank you to the team in Higashi-Fuji and Cologne, as well as our partners Oreca. We worked as one team and took part in an amazing Le Mans 24 Hours. Congratulations to Porsche on its victory. I have no words to describe our emotions today. It is simply heartbreaking but we will return stronger and more determined to win.”

"We've dreamed about winning this race," described Hugues de Chaunac, team manager of Oreca, associated with Toyota since 2012. "We also had a nightmare, breaking down an hour from the finish. But not in the last lap. It's completely cruel. It hasn't sunk in yet. We were right there. This race is so hard to win. Even Porsche's boss came to see us and admitted he didn't deserve this victory."

Fritz Enzinger, Porsche vice president LMP1: “First of all, I would like to express my respect for the sensational performance which Toyota gave in this race. It was a great fight with them. Shortly before the finish we had settled for second place until we suddenly claimed our second Le Mans victory in a row. I would like to thank our great team in Weissach, our team here in Le Mans and all Porsche employees and fans which have supported us here.”

Andreas Seidl, Porsche Team principal: “We certainly feel for our colleagues and friends from Cologne. To give away such a great race this way on the last lap is something you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. But this is the sport with all its highs and lows and that’s also why we love it. It was a strong fought victory. We had to put Toyota under pressure and went flat out for the entire race. The frequency with which the leader changed was extreme. As happy as I am for the number 2 crew, I feel sorry for the guys from the number 1 car”.

In LMP2, the win went to Alpine. The Alpine A460, powered by a Nissan engine and driven by Gustavo Menezes, Nicolas Lapierre and  Stéphane Richelmi had been leading since the tenth hour of the race. A fine victory for the French marque that has been competing in endurance for several seasons now and recently announced its commercial revival.

Ford clinched the LM GTE Pro class victory 50 years after the triumph of the Ford GT40. The Ford GT was among the leaders in its class throughout the race in what has turned out to be a flamboyant comeback. Last but not least, Ferrari and Scuderia Corsa top the LM GTE Am class, after leading over the final hours of the race.

LMP1

1 - Porsche Team (#2 Porsche 919 Hybrid) Romain Dumas -  Marc Lieb - Neel Jani
2 - Toyota Gazoo Racing (#6 Toyota TS050 Hybrid) Mike Conway - Kamui Kobayashi - Stéphane Sarrazin
3 - Audi R 18 Team Joest (#8 Audi R 18 Team Joest) Lucas Di Grassi - Loïc Duval - Oliver Jarvis

LMP2

1. Signatech Alpine (#36 Alpine A460-Nissan) Gustavo Menezes - Nicolas Lapierre - Stéphane Richelmi
2. G-Drive Racing (#26 Oreca 05-Nissan) Roman Rusinov -  Will Stevens - René Rast
3. SMP Racing (#37 BR Engineering BR01-Nissan) Vitaly Petrov - Viktor Shaitar - Kirill Ladygin

LM GTE Pro

1 - Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA (#68 Ford GT) Joey Hand - Dirk Müller - Sébastien Bourdais
2 - Risi Competizione (#82 Ferrari 488 GTE) Giancarlo Fisichella - Toni Vilander - Matteo Malucelli
3 - Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA (#69 Ford GT) Ryan Briscoe - Richard Westbrook - Scott Dixon

LM GTE Am

1 - Scuderia Corsa (#62 Ferrari 458 Italia GT2) Bill Sweedler - Townsend Bell - Jeff Segal
2 - AF Corse (#83 Ferrari 458 Italia GT2) François Perrodo - Emmanuel Collard - Rui
3 - Águas Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing (#88 Porsche 911 RSR) Khaled Al Qubaisi - Patrick Long - David Heinemeier Hansson

TAGS// le mans, world endurance championship, endurance racing, lemans 24h, porsche 919, toyota ts 050, porsche motorsport, toyota gazoo racing, 24 hours of le mans

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