Porsche took a convincing Le Mans 24 Hours win today to register its first victory at La Sarthe since 1998.
Nico Hulkenberg, Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber were for many the least-favoured of the Porsche trio of entries to win the event, but the three LMP1 rookies put in exceptional performances to score a memorable victory.
Completing a 1-2 with the #19 and #17 Porsche 919 Hybrid LMP1 designs, the German marque notched up its 17th Le Mans win and ended a sequence of five consecutive Audi wins. Hulkenberg is the first rookie winner of the Le Mans 24 Hours for 17 years since Laurent Aiello won for Porsche in 1998 with the 911 GT1-98.
It was a remarkable result for the squad, which also took pole position and showed supreme stint pace throughout the 24 Hours. Reliability too was impressive for Porsche, with only the #18 suffering from a temporary braking problem.
Taking the chequered flag, the three Porsches 919 Hybrid racers have exceeded the corporate and sporting ambitions of Porsche AG by winning Le Mans at only its second attempt with the new generation of LMP1 racer.
The #19 Porsche had a faultless 24 Hours and led home stablemates Mark Webber, Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley by one lap.
For Webber it was ultimately another dramatic and bittersweet Le Mans moment. The Australian’s history as a racer at Le Mans has been peppered with drama and incident, but this weekend it was just plain bad luck and a small mistake by one of his teammates that ultimately denied him a crack at victory.
Completing the podium was last year's victors – Benoit Treluyer, Andre Lotterer and Marcel Fassler in the #7 Audi R18 e-tron quattro. Audi swapped the lead with Porsche and ran them hard and close in the first three quarters of the race.
But a problem with the rear bodywork and a drive-through penalty for a Safe Zone infringement ruled out a fourth Le Mans victory.
The pole-sitting #18 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Neel Jani, Marc Lieb and Roman Dumas finished fifth. The other two Audis placed fourth – #8 and seventh – #9.
Toyota Gazoo Racing came home sixth and eighth, with the #2 Toyota TS 040 HYBRID heading home the #1 car.
Rebellion Racing celebrated a well-deserved and merited ninth and 10th finish with the new R-One-AER package, which only tested for the first time a week before the test day.
Nissan came to Le Mans to gain mileage and learn more about its radical and innovative GT-R LM NISMO. It was a tough week for the new LMP1 outfit, as a variety of problems masked any clear or true assessment of the designs real potential.
Nissan got one car to the finish – the #22 car of Michael Krumm, Harry Tincknell and Alex Buncombe was not classified as a finisher as it did not complete the required 70 per cent of the winners distance.
KCMG’s conclusive LMP2 victory
The LMP2 class was won in a hard-fought and thrilling contest by the KCMG ORECA 05-Nissan. The Hong Kong-entered team led from the start and only lost the lead briefly in the first and second hours.
From the third hour, KCMG had truly stamped its collective authority upon the class, but some scary moments in the latter stages and the charging pace of a committed JOTA Sport and #26 G-Drive Ligier-Nissan ensured a pulsating finish.
Richard Bradley, Matt Howson and Nicolas Lapierre celebrated a richly-merited victory but had to work hard for it in the final hours.
Two trips up escape roads (Bradley at Arnage and Lapierre at Indianapolis) invited pressure from an inspired JOTA Sport.
Heartbreak for Ferrari; joy for Corvette
Corvette Racing claimed a memorable win in the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans with Oliver Gavin, Jordan Taylor and Tommy Milner securing a fine victory.
It was made even more special for the Corvette Racing-GM team as they fought back from adversity after losing the #63 sister car on Thursday evening after a heavy accident befell Jan Magnussen.
But there were cruel twists for both AF Corse and Aston Martin Racing in the final stages of the race this afternoon.
In the LMGTE class, the AF Corse Ferrari of Gimmi Bruni, Toni Vilander and Giancarlo Fisichella had been on target to defend their 2015 crown.
However, a late gearbox problem cost them a second successive win. They returned to the track and finished third, just behind the #71 Ferrari of James Calado, Olivier Beretta and Davide Rigon.
Late disaster for Aston
If AF Corse felt hard done by, then the Aston Martin Racing squad looked on completely disconsolate, as a certain LMGTE Am win slipped through its fingers when Paul Dalla Lana suffered an accident in the final 45 minutes.
The Canadian crashed at the final Ford Chicane and handed victory to the SMP Racing (AF Corse-run) Ferrari 458 Italia.
Victor Shaytar took the chequered flag to the rapturous applause of the SMP Racing team and his teammates Andrea Bertolini and Aleksei Basov.
Taking what is sure to be a headline grabbing second in class was the Dempsey Proton Porsche 911 RSR of Marco Seefried, Pat Long and, of course, Patrick Dempsey himself.