Porsche win Climactic 2017 Le Mans

Coming back from a hybrid system issue early in the race which had looked to put them out of contention for the 2017 Le Mans podium, the #2 Porsche crew fought back to take a spectacular victory in one of the most eventful races Le Mans has ever held. Tagged as an ‘old school Le Mans’ race, there was never a dull moment as the 24 hours flew past. Eleven of the starters failed to complete the race, one of the lowest percents of non-finishers in a 24 Hours of Le Mans.

It had seemed like the race was over for the #2 Porsche crew when they were hit with a front axle drive failure around the four-hour mark, as it turns out, this was related to the hybrid system. The only way they would be able to recover the hour they had lost in the garage was if the entire LMP1 field suffered a delay as bad as they had. In a shocking twist in the middle of the night, two of the Toyotas retired from the race whilst the third Gazoo Racing entry was stuck in the pits for two hours. The bizarre twist of events saw the #2 up to second in class, albeit being about 45th in the overall classification.

The plan for the team changed as the #2 crew focused on trying to score constructors points for the team. Constructor’s points are handed out at Le Mans depending on where the car finishes in class clarification. For the driver’s championship, the points are given to the drivers depending on where they finish in the overall standings. With the Porsche #2 team knowing they were in a good place in class clarification they focused on having a clean safe race and getting it across the line at the chequered flag.

But Le Mans was not done with throwing up the twists and turns of the 24-hour endurance race. With only about three hours left on the clock, the Porsche #1 that had been leading by a comfortable 12 laps to the second-placed car (in the overall standings) dropped a lot of speed heading around Tertre Rouge. An oil pressure problem saw Andre Lotterer pulling over at the side of the Mulsanne Straight. As much as he tried to get the car back to the pits there was not enough battery power to limp back to the garage from where he was.

This changed the race for the #2 Porsche as they were suddenly the highest placed LMP1 car. Crunching the numbers, they worked out that with an amazingly fast and consistent pace they could potentially pass all the LMP2 cars that were ahead of them and take the overall victory. They predicted that they would reach the then-leading LMP2 by the last lap of the race, however, three amazing stints by Brendon Hartley saw the Porsche #2 in a position to take the lead from the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing with an hour of track time left.

The last hour was completely nerve-wracking for the #2 Porsche team. They had seen three of the five hybrid LMP1 cars retire instantly from the race and seen hybrid issues on the #8 as well as suffering hybrid issues themselves. There was a sense that Le Mans was not done with the LMP1 field and until Timo Bernhard took the chequered flag no one in the Porsche garage would believe that they had won the 85th running of Le Mans.

The Toyota #8 was the only other LMP1 car to actually classify for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It seemed that the oppressive heat that descended over the Circuit de la Sarthe was affecting the hybrid systems of the LMP1 cars. Sebastien Buemi crossed the line to place the #8 ninth overall.

It was a tight battle in LMP2 for the leading #38 car to take the overall victory of Le Mans. They had been in a strong position throughout most of the latter part of the race. When the #1 retired there was a small sense of belief that they would take the overall victory, but Hartley’s rapid place made it clear quickly that Porsche was on a mission.

There was no challenge for the #38 for the LMP2 class victory. The real battle was between the #13 Vaillante Rebellion and the #35 Signatech Alpine as the race drew to a close. the #13 had the better race pace, but a starter motor failure saw them contending with extra long pit stops as they have to remove the back engine cover to manual kick the car into life.

#13 ended up taking second in class, which also meant they took the bottom step of the overall podium. The #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing was very close to taking the position from the Rebellion crew and showed great race pace in the latter stages of the endurance.

LMGTE Pro gifted one of the most intense wheel-to-wheel battles to the line for the victory in class. Over the last few hours of the race, the battle had been between Corvette Racing and Aston Martin Racing to take the class lead. Pit stops were shuffling the order and usually saw the Aston on top at the end of the hour as they pitted first.

As the final hour ticked down, Jonny Adam was half a second off the back of the #63 Corvette Racing, then in the hands of Jordan Taylor. Adam tried to make a move work going into Arnage but going up the inside of the corner meant he went very deep on exit. He held the lead for a brief moment before Taylor took it back with ease.

An assumed brake failure saw Taylor go straight on over one of the chicanes down the Mulsanne and pull a big advantage out on Adam. In terms of fair racing, Taylor dropped off the speed a little to reduce the advantage he had and make sure there was nothing he could be penalised.

Adam was very clever as they headed through the final sector of the track. He kept his lines very tidy and clean, making sure he had the perfect run off of the Ford Chicane. Taylor had been trying to defend and left the racing line for Adam to use to produce a beautiful overtake for the lead of the class.

Once Adam was passed, Taylor suffered a failure on his car that was either a brake failure or a puncture as a result of his excurtion through the Mulsanne gravel traps. As it was the final lap, Taylor drove carefully and tried hard to push the car to the finish whilst trying to hold onto his second position. But Harry Tincknell had been racing in the Ford Chip Ganassi #67 with a pace that would see him in the right place if one of the cars ahead of him had an issue. Knowing Taylor was vulnerable, Tincknell pushed hard for the last lap of the race, demoting Taylor to third in class as he took a deeply deserved second in class.

The Am class podium saw a Ferrari domination. The #84 JMW Motorsport put on an amazing performance that saw them take class victory with at least a lap’s advantage over the rest of the field. Spirit of Race #55 Ferrari finished second with the last Ferrari on the podium being the #62 Scuderia Corsa.

Aston Martin looked strong at the beginning of the race. The #98 Aston Martin Racing was leading the class at the beginning of the race before a tyre blow out saw them in the garage for a while with repairs, dropping them down the order. The #90 TF Sport was also looking like it could challenge the Ferraris for a podium finish, but a mistake in the middle of the night put the car in the barrier. Again, repairs in the garage saw it fall down the order.

The best finishing Aston Martin in class was the #99 Beechdean AMR. It finished just off the podium in fourth, an admirable effort considering it is only the second time the team has raced Le Mans and they had a rookie driver on the team.