Hulkenberg, Bamber and Tandy take a historic win for Porsche at Circuit de la Sarthe
14 June 2015

Porsche took a stunning, historic victory in the 83rd running of the Le Mans 24 Hours as Formula 1 star and race debutant Nico Hulkenberg helped take the German manufacturer’s 17th win in the famous French race.

Hulkenberg, joined by fellow rookie Earl Bamber and one of the stars of the race, Nick Tandy, produced a virtually flawless performance in the #19 Porsche 919 Hybrid to see off a determined challenge from Audi Sport as well as their own team-mates to secure the win in only the second year since Porsche returned to top-flight prototype racing with the two-litre V4-engined Hybrid. 

The victory came on the 45th anniversary of Porsche’s first win at Le Mans in 1970, when Hans Hermann and Richard Attwood famously won in the now iconic red and white 917K. It also marked 17 years since Porsche last won the race. 

For Hulkenberg, it was a dream debut as he became the first contemporary F1 driver to win since Johnny Herbert and Bertrand Gachot won with Mazda in 1991 and along with Kiwi Bamber, the first debutant to win at Le Mans since Laurent Aiello triumphed for Porsche in 1998. 

The #19 machine led for more than half the race and by sunrise had a two-minute advantage over team-mates Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and former winner Timo Bernhard in the #17 car (painted in tribute colours to the 917). By this stage Audi’s trio of R18 e-tron quattros had already run in to various problems. 

Toyota meanwhile was bereft of the pace that made it such a potent force in 2014. 

Porsche began the week with a pace advantage over its key factory rivals Audi and Toyota. Indeed Neel Jani set a record 3m16.877s pole time that represented the sixth fastest lap of all time around the legendary La Sarthe circuit – and the fastest of all since chicances were installed on the Mulsanne straight. 

In the race however the Audis were much closer to Porsche and indeed the #7 R18 e-tron Quattro of Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler had battled past the 919 Hybrids and into the lead by the second hour. Not only that Audi devised a way to make its Michelin tyres last four stints which allowed them to counter Porsche’s speed, as the 919s were lasting three stops. 

But this never really played out for Audi as Lotterer stopped out of sequence with a puncture from that lead and then Loic Duval crashed the sister #8 Audi heavily in traffic at the run in to Indianapolis corner. Remarkably the car was repaired in under four minutes, while the guardrail replacement took rather longer, causing a long safety car period.

This balance of power swayed between #17 and #19 Porsches and the #9 and #7 Audis, until the turning point came at around half distance as Porsche switched to quadruple stinting its drivers in the colder temperatures, diminishing Audi’s tyre advantage. 

That, along with stellar stints from Hulkenberg and Tandy during the night, as well as one-minute stop-and-go for the next closest Porsche of Webber, put the #19 into a lead it would control to the end. 

Audi’s three-time Le Mans winning #7 crew took third though not without more problems, which blighted all three Audi cars. 

Last year’s challengers Toyota were never really in the race competitively, and in a race with a remarkably high finishing rate among the top factory entries, could manage no better than sixth and eighth positions. 

Nissan, whose unique front-engined GT-R LM Nismo prototype has turned heads since its unveiling could clearly not match the pace of the conventional machines. This was partially due to well-documented issues with its hybrid power delivery and partially due to a lack of track time. But still the team brought one car to the finish after a catalogue of problems for all three GTRs. 

Nissan did taste victory however as its engine powered the Oreca 05 of KCMG that dominated the LMP2 class in the hands of Richard Bradley, Matthew Howson and Nicolas Lapierre. 

Chevrolet's Corvette scored an emotional win in the GTE Pro class after a tough week that saw the team have to withdraw one of its two C7.Rs because of a massive accident for Jan Magnussen in the Porsche Curves during qualifying. 

The battle for GT was pitched, and at one point or another Aston Martin, Ferrari and Corvette all held sway. But with all three Astons hitting problems and the leading AF Corse being forced to stop from the lead with gearbox problems in the last couple of hours, the #64 Chevrolet C7.R of Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Jordan Taylor came through to win. In the case of the Briton, it was his fifth class win for the manufacturer. 

Aston Martin came extremely close to securing a consolation win in GTE AM, but Paul Dalla Lama crashed out of the lead in the Ford chicane as the track dampened in a late rain shower handing the win to Ferrari with the SMP Racing team.

Simon Strang

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Comments
7

14 June 2015
It was a fabulous race and also a great result for Porsche. Audi had the opportunity to overtake Porsche and become the most successful racing team at Le Mans with 12 wins, but instead the 919 Hybrid ensured Porsche regained that honour with their 12th win as a team as well as ensuring a 15th Porsche car won the race (excluding the Kremer K3 and Dauer 962 which weren't badged as Porsches!).

Audi put up a great fight and their R18s were much faster than anyone thought they were, especially after qualifying, and they were right on the pace of Porsche from the off. At one point looked liked they were going to win but as the race went on, especially through the night, their pace dropped off and reliability issues crept in too.

As for Toyota, they were amazingly off the pace even though they were the most reliable and consistent performing P1 cars.

Nissan on the other hand made themselves look like a complete joke, turning up to their first race with a half-hearted, underdeveloped and under-performing car, throwing all the hype and excitement with their unusual car out of the window. If they wanted race-pace and race environment development, they should have raced at Silverstone and Spa this year, instead they turned up at the biggest race of the year and made themselves look foolish. Also, it may seem like the front engined, front drive layout may not work as well as they thought while development is so far behind. Toyota and Porsche didn't lag this far behind when they returned to the P1 class.

Great result for Chevrolet, winning the GTE Pro class, the Corvette C7 was virtually bulletproof and probably reasserts themselves as having the GT car to beat again.

14 June 2015
Bravo Porsche.
I've just come back from Le Mans.
Great week-end.

14 June 2015
And may I say a BIG thank you for QUEST for showing some of the race on TV. I don't think the BBC knew it was on.

15 June 2015
Greenracer wrote:

And may I say a BIG thank you for QUEST for showing some of the race on TV. I don't think the BBC knew it was on.

And a big thanks to Eurosport for showing the whole race from start to finish...and being able to watch that channel with just a regular Sky subscription without the Sports package! Fantastic race all round - can't wait to go next year!

14 June 2015
Managed to watch 18 hours of the race, Hulkenburg can't be that motivated to be an f1 midfielder for much longer....

15 June 2015
Why not just make this site part of the VW/Audi/Porsche site with articles approved by the modern-day Goebbels and his team. It would at least persist the myth of the German teams "competing" against each other before VW decides who is going to win. Do you know, despite how awful BL was, I wish it was 1972 again; at least we had some sort of pretence of competition.

16 June 2015
under cover, away from emissions noise.....porsche is really revolutionizing sports car demeanor, quietly prepping for efficient motoring for the future of motorsports in general. This V4 hybrid will spawn great advancements in this field.

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