Sunday, June 19, 2016

Porsche Wins as Toyota Falters in Final Five Minutes at Le Mans

Porsche has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the 18th time as the #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Neel Jani, Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas took the victory after the #5 Toyota TS050 Hybrid of Kazuki Nakajima, Sébastien Buemi and Anthony Davidson with less than six minutes remaining. The #2 Porsche passed the #5 Toyota just after the car came to a stop on the front straightaway after starting the final lap. The #2 Porsche completed 384 laps as did the #5 Toyota with it taking Nakajima 11 minutes and 53.815 seconds to complete the final lap.

The #5 Toyota will not be classified because it took longer than the regulated amount of time to complete the final lap.

This is the second overall Le Mans victory for Dumas and first overall Le Mans victory for Lieb and Jani. Dumas's victory is the 43rd for a French driver, elevating France ahead of the United Kingdom in most overall Le Mans victories for a nation. Lieb becomes the 19th different German driver to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Jani joins Marcel Fässler as the only Swiss drivers to stand on the top step of the podium at Le Mans.

The #6 Toyota of Mike Conway, Stéphane Sarrazin and Kamui Kobayashi will be classified in second overall, three laps behind the #2 Porsche. The #6 Toyota led a fair portion of the night before having to go into the garage with a mechanical issue after a spin into a gravel trap. Just when it appeared Audi would fail to put a car on the overall podium, the #8 Audi R18 of Lucas di Grassi, Oliver Jarvis and Loïc Duval will be elevated to third overall, 14 laps down with the #7 Audi of André Lotterer, Benoît Tréluyer and Marcel Fässler finishing fourth overall, 18 laps down.

The #36 Signatech Alpine-Nissan of Nicolas Lapierre, Gustavo Menezes and Stéphane Richelmi won in LMP2 and finished fifth overall completing 357 laps. Lapierre won last year in LMP2 with KCMG while Menezes and Richelmi both score a class victory in their Le Mans debuts. The #36 Signatech Alpine won the previous WEC round at Spa-Francorchamps. Menezes is the first American to win in LMP2 since William Binnie won in 2007 with his own team and co-drivers Chris Buncombe and Allen Timpany. The #26 G-Drive Racing Oreca-Nissan of Romain Rusinov, René Rast and Will Stevens finished second in LMP2, also completing 357 laps. G-Drive Racing finished third in class last year. The #37 SMP Racing BR01-Nissan of Vitaly Petrov, Viktor Shaitar and Kirill Ladygin rounded out the LMP2 podium, finishing four laps behind the top two in class.

Ford's Le Mans return ends in style with the #68 Ford GT of Joey Hand, Dirk Müller and Sébastien Bourdais picking up the GTE-Pro victory. The #68 Ford GT completed 340 laps and finished 18th overall. It is the first Le Mans class victory for all three drivers. Hand and Müller had not raced at Le Mans since 2011, when they finished third in GTE-Pro driving for BMW while Bourdais' last Le Mans start was in 2012 driving a Dome-Judd in LMP1 for Pescarolo Sport. The Le Mans-native Bourdais had finished second overall on three occasions driving for Peugeot. Müller finished second in the GT class in 1999 driving

The #82 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE of Giancarlo Fisichella, Toni Vilander and Matteo Malucelli finished second in GTE-Pro, a minute back of the #68 Ford with the #69 Ford GT of Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook and Scott Dixon rounding out the podium. All three GTE-Pro podium finishers are full-time IMSA SportsCar Championship entries. This is the third consecutive year Fisischella and Vilander has finished on the GTE-Pro podium after competing with AF Corse and Gianmaria Bruni the previous two years. This is the third time Malucelli has finished second in a class at Le Mans. He finished second in GT2 in 2008 and 2009. Briscoe and Dixon both score their first class podium at Le Mans while Westbrook gets his first Le Mans podium since 2010.

The #62 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia of Townsend Bell, Bill Sweedler and Jeff Segal are victorious in GTE-Am after completing 331 laps and finishing 26th overall. Last year, Bell, Sweedler and Segal finished third in GTE-Am and all were making their Le Mans debut. This is Ferrari's second consecutive year winning GTE-Am at Le Mans. Ferrari makes it a 1-2 in class as the #83 AF Corse Ferrari of Emmanuel Collard, François Perrodo and Rui Águas finish second. Patrick Long finishes on the GTE-Am podium for the second consecutive year but this year he finishes third in class, driving the #88 Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR with Khaled Al-Qubaisi and David Heinemeier Hansson.

Frédéric Sausset drove the #84 SRT41 by OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan across the finish line, completing 315 laps and finishing 38th overall. The quadruple amputee and co-drivers Christophe Tinseau and Jean-Bernard Bouvet become the first experimental invited team to finish the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The next round of the FIA World Endurance Championship will be on July 24th for the 6 Hours of the Nürburgring.