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Porsche Is A Winner Again At Le Mans

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 14 2015
Winning Le Mans drivers from the No. 19 Porsche 919 Hybrid were Earl Bamber, Nico Hulkenberg and Nick Tandy.

Winning Le Mans drivers from the No. 19 Porsche 919 Hybrid were Earl Bamber, Nico Hulkenberg and Nick Tandy.

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

When racing powerhouse Porsche announced two years ago that it was returning to the LMP1 ranks of sports car endurance racing, many wondered how long it would take for the German car maker to return to the top step of the Le Mans logopodium at Le Mans.

The answer: Two years.

Porsche, absent from the top classification in the sport at Le Mans from 1998 until 2014, won the 2015 edition of the 24-hour race on Sunday when the No. 19 919 Hybrid – with Formula One star Nico Hulkenberg at the wheel –  streaked across the finish line at the iconic Circuit de la Sarthe at the head of the field.

The overall victory was the 17th for Porsche at Le Mans and expanded its lead in
the category of most 24-hour races won at the road course that runs through the French countryside.

Sharing the ride with Hulkenberg in a car field just for Le Mans, were Earl

The No. 19 Porsche 919 Hybrid heads to victory at Le Mans.

The No. 19 Porsche 919 Hybrid heads to victory at Le Mans.

Bamber and Nick Tandy.

“It’s absolutely amazing,” Bamber said. “We came together as a team six months ago and to now win Le Mans on our debut, absolutely incredible. Words don’t describe driving down pit lane sitting on the side of that car. All I can say is 17 for Porsche. Seventeen.”

Finishing second was the sister Porsche 919 Hybrid, driven at the end by Brendon Hartley. Co-driving the No. 17 Porsche’s wheel were Timo Bernhard and Mark Webber.

Andreas Seidl, team Principal for Porsche’s LMP1 effort, said, “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. We knew we were a lot better prepared than last year, but no way could we expect this result. We didn’t benefit from any situations, but were on a winning level in every regard – be it the mechanics in the garage or the engineers doing the strategy. The pit stops were outstanding. The drivers were sensational. Congratulations to the three winning guys.”

Third was the No. Audi R18 e-tron Quattro, driven on the final stint of the day by Benoit Treluyer. His co-drivers were Andre Lotterer and Marcel Fassler.

The victory by Porsche ended Audi’s 21st Century dominance of the annual Le Mans race as Audi had won all but two 24s since the year 2000.

Rounding out the top five were the No. 8 Audi R18 and the third Porsche 919.

The Porsche’s showed big speed in the days leading up to the race and qualified one, two, three. The question surrounding the 919s once the race started concerned durability and Audi’s experience in the paddocks and on the track.

But it was Audi that suffered most from mechanical problems and driver mistakes.

Audi’s hopes went from fleeting to grim in Hour 22 when the No. 7 R18 had to pit twice – for an oil change and then to address loose bodywork – while running third.

Finishing first in the LMP2 class was the Oreca 05 Nissan of the KCMG team and with Richard Bradley at the wheel on the final stint.

Second was the No. 38 JOTA Sport Gibson 015S Nissan driven by Oliver Turvey at the end. Rounding out the podium in LMP2 was the No. 26 Ligier Nissan of G-Drive Racing.

The No. 64 Corvette was running second to last year’s GTE Pro class winner

The Chevrolet Corvette Racing C7.R #64, driven by Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Jordan Taylor, races to victory at Circuit de la Sarthe Sunday.

The Chevrolet Corvette Racing C7.R #64, driven by Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Jordan Taylor, races to victory at Circuit de la Sarthe Sunday.

Gianmaria Bruni in the No. 51 Ferrari 458 when that car was wheeled into the garage in Hour 23. The Corvette, with Jordan Taylor driving quickly, took the lead. It was a lead that would not be challenged.

The victory was especially gratifying for Corvette Racing in the wake of a wreck during qualifying that eliminated the team’s second C7.R from the starting grid.

“Unbelievable,” co-driver Tommy Milner said. “We certainly had our backs against the wall with our team car going out in qualifying, but as Corvette Racing, we’re one team. We pulled together and here we are, P1. Amazing!

“I can’t say enough about Oliver (Gavin) and Jordan. Each of them had a stint in the car where watching it, I just went, ‘Wow! Incredible!’ Thanks to those guys, thanks to all the crew guys. Our (No.) 4 guys back in the U.S., we’ve had a rough go of it for a bit, but this win makes up for that, for sure.”

Finishing second was the No. 71 Ferrari of AF Corse.

The No. 51 Ferrari returned to finish third.

In GTE Am, the No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage appeared to be cruising to a possible victory with Paul Dalla Lana at the wheel when, with just over 40 minutes to go, the car blew through a corner and crashed out.

That handed the victory to the No. 72 Ferrari 458 of SMP Racing.

Finishing second was the No. 77 Porsche 911 RSR owned by American actor/racer Patrick Dempsey.

“Le Mans is a wonderful race,” Dempsey said after nailing his best result in the 24. “It’s always a great experience to compete here. 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. I’m proud of the team.”

(This story will be updated shortly)

Race result
GTE-Pro class
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, 3320

GTE-Am class
1. Collard/Perrodo/Aguas (F/F/P), 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



| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 14 2015
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