Drivers Earl Bamber (NZ), Nico Hülkenberg (GER) and Nick Tandy (GB) won the coveted trophy in their innovative Porsche 919 Hybrid exactly 45 years after Porsche’s first overall win at La Sarthe was achieved. Timo Bernhard (GER), Brendon Hartley (NZ) and Mark Webber (AUS) in the sister car added the icing on the cake when they came home in second. Romain Dumas (FR), Neel Jani (CH) and Marc Lieb (GER) brought home the third Porsche 919 Hybrid in fifth.
At the 83rd Le Mans 24-Hours all the systems of this highly complex race car were tested to their limits. Because of the very tight competition, especially between the Porsche 919 Hybrids and the Audi prototypes, the race went on in qualifying mode twice round the clock. In qualifying the three Porsches did not only lock out the front of the grid with a one-two-three, but also set a new qualifying record for the 13.629 kilometre long track. The pinnacle was also the performance of the pit crew, who managed 90 pit stops in total and were significantly faster than the competition.
The winning number 19 prototype had started third on the grid, and for a short time at the beginning even dropped down the order to eighth before settling in sixth for a longer period. Of all things, it is the rookie crew that won the monstrous classic. Neither Formula One driver Nico Hülkenberg, who had the joy of being in the car at the most emotional moments of the race, being the start and the finish driver, nor Earl Bamber brought Le Mans experience with them. Nick Tandy, the third driver of the winning trio, had at least done two Le Mans 24-Hours for Porsche in the GT class. By doing super fast laps, staying calm but highly focused, the three of them drove a race with no errors and won it by their own merits.
In the early stages of the men and machine stressing marathon the number 17 Porsche had been leading. However, a one-minute stop-and-go penalty at the end of the first third of the race dropped them back to fourth. Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley and Mark Webber kept their heads down and worked hard. With a consistently strong performance they made it up to second place.
The crew of the third Porsche 919 Hybrid had a rather tricky race. Pole-setter Neel Jani lost the lead right after the start to Timo Bernhard. For some time the drivers were unhappy with the braking stability, and two offs from the track didn’t help either. Given that chronology of events, more than fifth place wasn’t within reach this time for the fast trio with the number 18 car.
No other brand has managed to win the world’s toughest endurance race so many times and is connected that closely to the myth of Le Mans. The previous win was also a one-two – back in 1998 when Allan McNish (GBR), Laurent Aiello (FRA) and Stéphane Ortelli (MC) finished first in their Porsche GT1.
Porsche only returned last year to the top level of endurance racing, attracted by the new efficiency regulations. In the brand’s Research Center in Weissach the most innovative car of the entire grid was developed. The Porsche 919 Hybrid has a trend-setting downsizing turbo engine and two energy recovery systems, which all together create a powertrain delivering around 1,000 HP. It works as a racing laboratory for the highest efficiency of future road going sports cars.
1. Hülkenberg/Tandy/Bamber (DE/GB/NZ), Porsche 919 Hybrid, 395 laps
2. Hartley/Webber/Bernhard (NZ, AUS/DE), Porsche 919 Hybrid, 394
3. Tréluyer/Lotterer/Fässler (F/DE/CH), Audi R18 e-tron quattro, 393
4. Di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis (BRA/F/GB), Audi R18 e-tron quattro, 392
5. Jani/Dumas/Lieb (CH/F/DE), Porsche 919 Hybrid, 391
6. Wurz/Sarrazin/Cornway (A/F/GB), Toyota TS 040, 387
Matthias Müller, CEO: “This one-two finish in Le Mans 2015 is such a fabulous result we wouldn’t have dreamed of. The entire team has done a great job over the recent three or four years and well deserve this success.”
Wolfgang Hatz, Member of Board for research and Development: “A one-two finish in what is only our second year is an amazing reward for the guts of our engineers regarding the 919 Hybrid’s concept, and the relentless efforts of our 230 team members.”
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1: “It is an incredible achievement to win Le Mans in only our second attempt since Porsche’s return. I have to thank this brilliant team that has been growing together over the last three and a half years. The Porsche board backed us one hundred per cent from the word go. It will take a few days to realise what we have achieved. I know that a lot of people have virtually lived for this dream to come true and have pursued it with the greatest commitment.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal: “It is hard to find words because it is just so difficult to believe we have done that. It is a fantastic reward for the tough work the team did here on the race track and back home in Weissach over the last three and a half years.”
Timo Bernhard: “Hats off for what our mates in the number 19 car have done – great job, great race. We were doing well, but never made up for the delay that the penalty caused.”
Brendon Hartley: “On the final lap I had tears in my eyes. We have all been working so hard for this result.”
Mark Webber: “The guys in the number 19 car did a great job. All three of them were exceptional for 24 hours. Especially at night, the number 19 was quick. It is a big day for Porsche.”
Romain Dumas: “That is a great success for Porsche. Sadly, we didn’t have a good race with our car, because we had some problems. But the most important thing is that we proved that Porsche can win.”
Neel Jani: “It wasn’t the race for the crew of number 18 today, but we finished and at least took some championship points with us. For Porsche this one-two success is just amazing.”
Marc Lieb: “This is a great day for the entire team and for Porsche. I am very proud to be part of it. We had hoped for more for our car crew, but it wasn’t our day. Nevertheless we will party tonight.”
Earl Bamber: “It feels incredible. I have enjoyed every single stint. It is been a long, long day to drive in the evening and then again in the morning. But I am not tired at all – I am pumped up on adrenalin now.”
Nico Hülkenberg: “I enjoyed every moment, these cars are great fun to drive and then to be on a huge track like this one. The pace was really high, and not what you would expect from endurance racing. Of course, I didn’t think I would come here and rock ’n’ roll this race, this would be silly because there are so many challenges in that race.”
Nick Tandy: “This is such a fantastic day. It is hard to get it to sink in that I’m now a Le Mans winner with Porsche.”
Patrick Dempsey has celebrated his greatest success as a race driver with
Porsche at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. At the wheel of the 470 hp 911 RSR campaigned by Dempsey Proton Racing, the American actor (“Grey’s Anatomy”) crossed the finish line in second in the GTE-Am class at the 83rd edition of the long distance classic in France in front of 260,000 spectators. His teammates at his third Le Mans mission with Porsche were Porsche works driver Patrick Long (USA) and Marco Seefried (Austria), which whom he contests the full 2015 Sports Car World Endurance Championship for the first time.
With the Porsche 911 RSR, which is based on the seventh generation of the iconic 911 sports car and is characterised by a consequent lightweight design and sophisticated aerodynamics, the trio put in a strong team effort at their first joint Le Mans campaign. Particularly in the final phase of the world’s toughest automobile race they grabbed their chance: After falling back slightly in the field in the morning, around midday Patrick Long battled his way back to third place. Using the skill and routine from his twelve Le Mans starts, he realized the full potential of the #77 Porsche and laid the foundation for success. After putting in a faultless final stint, Le Mans rookie Marco Seefried finally swept over the finish line in second place.
With three-and-a-half hours to the flag, the Porsche Manthey squad with drivers Michael Christensen (Denmark), Richard Lietz (Austria) and Jörg Bergmeister (Germany) also looked likely to claim a podium spot with their 911 RSR. Two pit stops for repairs, however, cost the trio more than 30 minutes and the chance of a possiblethird place. For their team colleagues Patrick Pilet (France), Frédéric Makowiecki (France) and Wolf Henzler (Germany), their Le Mans dreams were shattered already after the first hour of racing due to a defect in the transmission area.
1. Gavin/Milner/Taylor (GB/USA/USA), Chevrolet Corvette, 337 laps
2. Rigon/Calado/Beretta (I/GB/MC), Ferrari 458 Italia, 332
3. Bruni/Vilander/Fisichella (I/SF/I), Ferrari 458 Italia, 330
4. Sörensen/Thiim/Nygaard (DK/DK/DK), Aston Martin, 330
5. Lietz/Christensen/Bergmeister (A/DK/D), Porsche 911 RSR, 327
6. MacDowall/Stanaway/Rees (GB/NZ/BRA), Aston Martin, 320
1. Bertolini/Shaytar/Basov (I/RUS/RUS), Ferrari 458 Italia, 332 laps
2. Dempsey/Long/Seefried (USA/USA/D), Porsche 911 RSR, 331
3. Sweedler/Bell/Segal (USA/USA/USA), Ferrari 458, 330
4. Perrodo/Collard/Aguas (F/F/P), Ferrari 458 Italia, 330
5. Giammaria/Mann/Cressoni (I/GB/I), Ferrari 458 Italia, 326
6. Chen/Vanellet/Parisy (TWN/F/F), Porsche 911 RSR, 320
8. Chen/Kapadia/Maassen (TWN/GB/NL), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 316
Dr Frank-Steffen Walliser, Head of Porsche Motorsport: “Today is a banner day for Porsche. We’re all proud of the drivers who clinched the 17th overall victory at Le Mans for Porsche. From a GT point of view it’s wasn’t the Le Mans result we were hoping for. We were well sorted in terms of strategy, and we drove a good race with the number 91 vehicle, but then technical problems with our 911 RSR threw us back. It is all the more pleasing that the identically-designed 911 RSR contesting the GTE-Am class finished on an excellent second place with Patrick Dempsey, Patrick Long and Marco Seefried.”
Richard Lietz: “The driving was great fun and in the night we were even running in second. But later we experienced bad luck with the shock absorbers but we couldn’t do anything about it. In any case, we’ve learned a great deal. I’m already looking forward to Le Mans 2016.”
Michael Christensen: “My first Le Mans was an unforgettable experience. My teammates had raved about the race beforehand. But all my expectations were exceeded. It’s a pity that the story doesn’t have a happy end this time.”
Jörg Bergmeister: “We would have been very pleased with a podium finish. Unfortunately technical gremlins prevented this – which can always happen at a 24-hour race. Le Mans was still the highlight of the year for me.”
Patrick Dempsey: “For us, the last race hour was a particularly tough battle but the whole team did everything they possibly could. Luckily we were rewarded with a podium result. For that alone, all the hard work of the last weeks and months were worthwhile.”
Patrick Long: “If I’ve learned one thing from my twelve Le Mans campaigns, it’s this: In the critical phase your car needs to be intact, only then do you have a chance. This is my third Le Mans attempt with Patrick and we’ve always dreamed of climbing the podium together. Now this dream has come true.”
Marco Seefried: “Le Mans is a cool race, but I never thought that such a speed could be maintained over the whole distance. It was tough work and the squad did everything right.”
Round four of the Sports Car World Endurance Championship WEC is held on 30
August on the Nürburgring.