Porsche has achieved its 17th overall Le Mans victory at the 83rd running of the famous 24-Hour race in a perfect way with a one-two finish.
Drivers Earl Bamber, Nico Hülkenberg and Nick Tandy won the coveted trophy in their Porsche 919 Hybrid exactly 45 years after Porsche’s first overall win at La Sarthe was achieved. Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley and Mark Webber in the sister car added the icing on the cake when they came home in second. Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb brought home the third Porsche 919 Hybrid in fifth.
No other car manufacturer has managed to win the world’s toughest endurance race so many times. The previous win was also a one-two – back in 1998 when Allan McNish, Laurent Aiello and Stéphane Ortelli finished first in their Porsche GT1.
An ecstatic Matthias Müller, CEO of Porsche AG said “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.” His colleague Wolfgang Hatz, Member of Board for research and Development at Porsche AG, added “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.”
Porsche only returned last year to the top level of endurance racing, attracted by the new efficiency regulations. In the company’s Research Center in Weissach the most innovative car of the entire grid was developed. The Porsche 919 Hybrid has a trend-setting downsized 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 future road going sports cars.
The winning number 19 prototype had started third on the grid, and for a while at the beginning dropped down the order to eighth before settling into sixth for a longer period. The main thing to remember about the winning crew of this car is that they were all rookies. Neither Formula One driver Nico Hülkenberg or Earl Bamber brought any 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 on their own merit.
The number 17 Porsche 919 had led the race during the early stages, a one minute stop and go penalty handed to Mark Webber for overtaking under a yellow flag, later dropped them back to fourth place. Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley and Mark Webber kept their heads down and worked hard to move back up into second place.
The crew of the third Porsche 919 Hybrid had a difficult 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 off track excursions didn’t help either. Given the problems the drivers encountered in the race, the fifth place at the end of the 24 hours was well deserved.
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President of the LMP1 program for Porsche told us “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 added “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.”
Earl Bamber said “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. I just had a very short break. But I am not tired at all – I am pumped up on adrenalin now. I thought I would have heard strange noises in the car. But, of course, you fancy every kind of noise if you are on your way to win Le Mans.”
Nico Hülkenberg went on to say “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. Especially at night when the temperatures came down a bit, the car was fantastic to drive. 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. However, we did it and we did it together.”
British driver Nick Tandy added “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.”
Second place driver Mark Webber congratulated his team-mates saying “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. We have had a smooth race, but in the end weren’t quick enough. Brendon and Timo did a great job. We are very proud for Porsche. If we can’t win we obviously want it to be within the team.”