Kiwis power Porsche to Le Mans victory + Video
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The 2015 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans has seen the comeback of the Kiwis and Porsche Team in the top category of the iconic and most respected long distant race in the world.
Porsche hasn’t competed in the Le Mans Prototype (LMP1) class for 16 years and on its return in 2014 fell short of improving on its 16 previous wins.
New Zealand on the other hand, hasn’t had a winner of the Grand Prix of Endurance and Efficiency since 1966 when Chris Amon and Bruce McLaren held off fellow Kiwi Denny Hulme to take the win in 1966.
At 3pm French time both comebacks had been well and truly nailed with Earl Bamber and Brendon Hartley, along with teammates Nico Hulkenberg and Nick Tandy; and Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard respectively, winning the great race and finishing second. As work’s drivers for the German manufacturer, the two Kiwis were an integral part of getting two of the three LMP1 cars on the podium.
The Porsche 919 Hybrid No19 Team Earl Bamber of New Zealand and Nico Hulkenberg of Germany hold the trophy during the podium ceremony of the 83rd 24-hour Le Mans endurance race, in Le Mans, western France, yesterday. Picture/AP
“It’s something that hasn’t sunk in at all,” said Bamber. “It was awesome that the three of us came together and did this [win]. Any day you get to drive such an amazing race car is cool — I can’t complain.”
Hartley was gracious in defeat mentioning that to have four Kiwis in the race was something quite special in itself. “It was an unbelievable day for Porsche and I would have loved to be on the top step but it wasn’t to be.
At least there was another Kiwi winning the race and it hasn’t all sunk in yet.”
The Porsche 919 Hybrid No17 of the Porsche Team drivers' Mark Webber of Australia, Timo Bernhard of Germany and Brendon Hartley of New Zealand celebrate their second place on the podium of the 83rd 24-hour Le Mans endurance race, in Le Mans, western France. Photo/AP.
The third Kiwi in the field was youngster Mitch Evens who came into the event on a bit of a roll having won in his first outing in an LMP2 car last month. Driving for the same Jota Sport team he and co-drivers Oliver Turvey and Simon Dolan won in in May, overcame a dramatic start to the race where the team lost three laps due to a gearbox issue.
Some inspired racing during the night saw them claw their way back up to second in class by race end.
“Last year the team were in the same position early on in the race that gave the team a bit of hope,” said Evans. “They won last year so we just kept our heads down and battled on.”
Aston Martin Racing’s Richie Stanaway didn’t fair so well. He and Fernando Rees and Alex MacDowall were well in command until the early morning until Rees had an altercation with an LMP2 car putting them out of podium contention. They eventually had to settle for sixth in class.