Heartbreaking Le Mans loss for Toyota, Porsche win
So close, but so very very far for Toyota, as #2 Porsche wins Le Mans
Porsche's #2 919 Hybrid and drivers Neel Jani, Romain Dumas, and Marc Lieb have won the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans, in what will go down in international motorsport history as one of the most devastating finishes to a race meeting after certain race winners Toyota and their #5 entry lost all power, then stopped on track with just five minutes in the race to go.
After decades of trying, Toyota looked to have finally broken their duck at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with their #5 Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima entry. With the #6 Toyota in third, having held the lead for a period itself before getting involved in an incident with traffic, the team looked poised for a 1-3 podium result.
But after Toyota pilot Nakajima reported power issues in the closing minutes, moods in the Toyota pit swung from elation to tragedy, and his 30-second margin to the Porsche vanished just before the final lap. With officials confirming that the #5 car would not be a classified finisher, the #6 Toyota climbed to second, with Audi's #8 Di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis entry rounding out the podium.
It was a mixed race for the New Zealand drivers in the field. Brendon Hartley and the #1 LMP1 919 he shared with Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard looked to be a race-win threat; having led the race in the early hours. But, during the eighth hour the Porsche pitted with overheating issues. A very long period in the garage mending the issue saw them tumble down the order. They eventually finished fifth in LMP1, the last of the classified runners.
Meanwhile, New Zealand's Scott Dixon claimed a podium finish on his Le Mans debut; finishing third in the GTE-Pro class with co-drivers Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook (pictured above). Their #68 Ganassi Racing Ford GT teammates Dirk Muller, Joey Hand, and Sebastien Bourdais earned a fairy tale victory for the blue oval, on the 50th anniversary of their first win in 1966 with Kiwis Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon.
Dixon and his co-drivers entered the final six hours of the race one lap behind the #68 Ford GT, and the former race leading #82 Risi Competitzione Ferrari 488. But Dixon's team regained their lap with a couple of hours remaining. Then after losing the lead to the #68 Ford GT, the Ferrari squad had to deal with a spin and a stall, with Toni Vilander behind the wheel, had a spin and a stall. This closed the gap between Dixon and the Ferrari.
Over the closing laps, it looked like Dixon — who had the task of completing the final stint — would have to settle for third. However, his Ferrari rival incurred a late-race pit-lane penalty. The team instructed the driver to ignore the penalty, leaving Dixon to cross the line third. It's expected that the penalty will come under further scrutiny.
It was contrasting fortunes for Earl Bamber and Richie Stanaway. Bamber's #92 Porsche 911 RSR held the lead of GTE-Pro class early in the race, but failed to finish after a suspension failure. Stanaway meanwhile finished sixth in GTE-Pro, in a relatively quiet race for the Aston Martin ace.
LMP2 was won by Gustavo Menezes, Nicolas Lapierre, and Stephane Richelmi in their Alpine A460 Nissan. In GTE-Am, William Sweedler, Townsend Bell, and Jeffry Segal took top honours in their Ferrari 458 Italia.
More to come.