Porsche secured its 19th Le Mans 24 Hours win after a gruelling race of attrition, beating the best of the LMP2 runners en route to a third successive triumph at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
In a race where only two of the LMP1 cars made it to the finish, it was the #2 car of Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley and Earl Bamber that came through to score victory, an outcome that seemed unlikely during the car’s lengthy spell in the garage in the fourth hour of the race to replace a front axle-motor.
The best of the LMP2s, the #38 DC Racing Oreca 07 shared by Oliver Jarvis, Ho-Pin Tung and Thomas Laurent, had assumed the lead when the #1 Porsche stopped out on track at the start of the 21st hour with an oil pressure issue.
But the pace of the Jota Sport-run car was never likely to be strong enough to resist the inexorable advance of the #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid, which had got itself back on the lead lap with just over two hours remaining with Bernhard at the wheel.
From there, Bernhard rapidly reeled in Tung, circulating around 13 seconds a lap faster, and drafted past on the run to Indianapolis with one hour and six minutes to go.
Bernhard duly brought the #2 car home to secure his second Le Mans win, the second for Bamber and a maiden victory at La Sarthe for Hartley.
Despite falling to second, the #38 DC Racing LMP2 still won its class, a lap behind the winning Porsche, becoming the first entry from the secondary class to take an overall top-three since its inception in 2005. It was also Jota Sport’s second class win.
Completing the podium was another LMP2 car, the #13 Rebellion Oreca of Nelson Piquet Jr, David Heinemeier Hansson and Mathias Beche.
The crew had served a stop-and-go penalty after Piquet collided with the #49 ARC Bratislava car at Dunlop, but recovered, inheriting third place with 40 minutes to go when Andre Negrao went off at Arnage in the #35 Signatech Alpine.
Negrao was forced to pit for repairs, and the car rejoined the race in fifth, behind the second of the DC Racing cars, the #37 of Alex Brundle, David Cheng and Tristan Gommendy, who took the final podium spot in a hotly contested LMP2 class.
Fifth in LMP2 and completing the top six overall was the best of the non-Oreca LMP2s, the #32 United Autosports Ligier of Filipe Albuquerque, Will Owen and Hugo de Sadeleer.
Seventh and eighth were another pair of Orecas, the #40 Graff car and the #24 Manor entry, followed by the sole surviving LMP1 Toyota in ninth overall.
Having lost nearly two hours in the eighth hour to a front motor and battery replacement, WEC points leaders Kazuki Nakajima, Sebastien Buemi and Anthony Davidson completed the race nine laps down, but second in the LMP1 points classification.
The best of the Dallara LMP2s, the #47 Villorba Corse car, was 10th overall and eighth in class.
GTE: Aston Martin denies Corvette in thrilling shootout
The battle for GTE Pro honours boiled down to a straight fight between old rivals Aston Martin and Corvette, which had been running on conflicting strategies but converged in the final hour as the #97 Vantage made its final stop early.
Jonny Adam rejoined the race right behind the #63 Corvette of Jordan Taylor, the pair embarking on a 45-minute duel to the chequered flag.
Taylor rebuffed an attack from Adam at Arnage with five minutes to go, and then survived a lurid trip across the gravel at the second Mulsanne chicane, and was seemingly on course for Corvette’s ninth class win – but slowed with a puncture at the start of the final lap.
That handed victory to the #97 car of Adam, Daniel Serra and Darren Turner, 1m30s ahead of the #67 Ford GT of Harry Tincknell, Andy Priaulx and Pipo Derani, which pipped the Taylor Corvette to the line.
Taylor limped home in third in the car he shared with Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen, just three seconds behind the Ford trio.
The surviving #91 Porsche 911 RSR held third going into the final hour, but required a late splash with 15 minutes to go, dropping Frederic Makowiecki, Richard Lietz and Patrick Pilet down to fourth, a lap down.
Completing the top six in class were the best of the AF Corse Ferraris, the #71 of Sam Bird, Davide Rigon and Miguel Molina, followed by the top IMSA Ford GT, the #66 of defending class champions Dirk Muller, Joey Hand and novice Tony Kanaan.
The GTE Am class was won by the #84 JMW Ferrari 488 GTE of Will Stevens, Rob Smith and Dries Vanthoor, which had controlled much of the race following the early puncture for the #98 Aston Martin.
Ferrari entries locked out the top three in class, with the #55 Spirit of Race car taking second and the #62 Scuderia Corsa car third, both two laps behind the #84.
Race results (top 10):
|1||2|| Timo Bernhard
|Porsche 919 Hybrid||LMP1||367||29|
|2||38|| Oliver Jarvis
|Oreca 07||LMP2||366||1 lap||38|
|3||13|| Nelson Piquet Jr.
David Heinemeier Hansson
|Oreca 07||LMP2||364||3 laps||38|
|4||37|| David Cheng
|Oreca 07||LMP2||363||4 laps||37|
|5||35|| Nelson Panciatici
|Alpine A470||LMP2||362||5 laps||40|
|6||32|| Filipe Albuquerque
Hugo De Sadeleer
|Ligier JSP 217||LMP2||362||3'31.780||36|
|7||40|| Richard Bradley
|Oreca 07||LMP2||361||6 laps||36|
|8||24|| Jean-Eric Vergne
|Oreca 07||LMP2||360||7 laps||37|
|9||8|| Anthony Davidson
|Toyota TS050 Hybrid||LMP1||358||9 laps||27|
|10||47|| Roberto Lacorte
|Dallara P217||LMP2||353||14 laps||36|
Click HERE for full race results