Porsche 919 Hybrid at Le Mans
The two VW Group owned brands also had to deal with Toyota and Nissan, but they would never truly challenge the German marquees. Of course a 24 hour endurance race takes a fast car as well as some luck. Going into the competition the Porsche 919 Hybrid was the favorite after qualifying in first, second and third.
To find out more about what happened at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, including driver quotes, pictures and additional facts click past the jump (or scroll down if you came directly to the full article).
Porsche may have been going for a record 17th overall Le Mans victory, but Audi was not far behind. They had won 13 and were going for a 14th. Porsche may be history’s best manufacture at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but Audi was the current king of endurance racing.
The battle for the overall victory was back and forth. As is always the case in a 24 hour race, challenges can help or hurt your chases of a win. For Audi all three R18 e-tron quattros had incidents that kept them from getting the win. They challenged often, but could not quite get past all three 919 Hybrids in the final moments.
The winning #19 919 started in third place but near the beginning of the race dropped down to eighth place. They would later get to sixth and stay there for a while. Eventually they managed enough fast laps and the team just kept working hard to get to the front of the track.
The #19 car had the least experienced driver lineup of all of the 919s. Pilots Nico Hülkenberg and Earl Bamber have never raced at Le Mans. Only Nick Tandy had driven in the 24 hour race, although in the GT class. Fittingly the victory came exactly 45 years from Porsche’s first win at Le Mans.
Nico Hülkenberg (#19 Porsche 919 Hybrid): “I enjoyed every moment, these cars are great fun to drive and then to be on a huge track like this one. The pace was really high, and not what you would expect from endurance racing. Especially at night when the temperatures came down a bit, the car was fantastic to drive. Of course, I didn’t think I would come here and rock ’n’ roll this race, this would be silly because there are so many challenges in that race. However, we did it and we did it together.”
Earl Bamber (#19 Porsche 919 Hybrid): “It feels incredible. I have enjoyed every single stint. It is been a long, long day to drive in the evening and then again in the morning. I just had a very short break. But I am not tired at all – I am pumped up on adrenalin now. I thought I would have heard strange noises in the car. But, of course, you fancy every kind of noise if you are on your way to win Le Mans.”
Nick Tandy (#19 Porsche 919 Hybrid): “This is such a fantastic day. It is hard to get it to sink in that I’m now a Le Mans winner with Porsche.”
But Porsche didn’t only get their 17th victory, they also managed to finish in second place. The car driven by Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley led the field for the first portion of the race. However, about one third of the way in, a stop and go penalty dropped the team down to fourth. With some good driving and hard work the #17 car managed the second place finish.
Timo Bernhard (#17 Porsche 919 Hybrid): “Hats off for what our mates in the number 19 car have done – great job, great race. We were doing well, but never made up for the delay that the penalty caused. Regarding my brief excursion into the gravel bed: Everyone has agreed that the slower cars stay on the racing line, but this guy decided to change his line without notice. To avoid contact I had to run wide and ran through the gravel bed. Nothing serious happened though, but this kind of incident can cause a lot of trouble. But that’s racing and the track is there for all of us.”
Mark Webber (#17 Porsche 919 Hybrid): “The guys in the number 19 car did a great job. All three of them were exceptional for 24 hours. Especially at night, the number 19 was quick. It is a big day for Porsche. We have had a smooth race, but in the end weren’t quick enough. Brendon and Timo did a great job. We are very proud for Porsche. If we can’t win we obviously want it to be within the team.”
Brendon Hartley (#17 Porsche 919 Hybrid): “On the final lap I had tears in my eyes. We have all been working so hard for this result. Stepping onto the podium was a dream come true. It is unbelievable. I’m very proud that two Porsches have won. I feel happy for every single person here.”
Audi did manage a podium finish after some good back and forth battles for first place. The engine cover come loose which kept the R18 driven by André Lotterer, Marcel Fässler and Benoît Tréluyer from challenging for victory at the very end of the race.
“That was motorsport at the very highest level. The spectators witnessed a tremendous endurance race in which the two Group sisters, Audi and Porsche, fought the expected fierce and thrilling duel for victory,” said Prof. Rupert Stadler, Chairman of the Board of Management of AUDI AG, who was one of the first people to extend congratulations in the Porsche pits after the checkered flag fell. “We can only congratulate our colleagues from Stuttgart on this success because we know exactly how difficult it is to win this race.”
Le Mans 24 Hours LMP1 2015 results:
1 Hülkenberg/Bamber/Tandy (Porsche) 395 laps
2 Bernhard/Webber/Hartley (Porsche) – 1 lap
3 Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer (Audi R18 e-tron quattro) – 2 laps
4 di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis (Audi R18 e-tron quattro) – 3 laps
5 Dumas/Jani/Lieb (Porsche) – 4 laps
6 Wurz/Sarrazin/Conway (Toyota) – 8 laps
7 Albuquerque/Bonanomi/Rast (Audi R18 e-tron quattro) – 8 laps
8 Davidson/Buemi/Nakajima (Toyota) – 9 laps
9 Howson/Bradley/Lapierre (ORECA-Nissan) – 37 laps
10 Dolan/Evans/Turvey (Gibson-Nissan) – 37 laps
In the top GT class (GTE-Pro) Ferrari and Corvette managed to get on the podium. Coming into the race Aston Martin had the pole position and looked like they could dominate. Ultimately, they fell back to fourth place, just missing a podium finish.
For Porsche the #91 car was the top finishing 911 in the GTE-Pro class. The rear-engined race car was able to compete for a top three finish, but a suspension issue helped them finish in fifth.
Michael Christensen (#91 Porsche 911 RSR): “My first Le Mans was an unforgettable experience. My teammates had raved about the race beforehand. But all my expectations were exceeded. It’s a pity that the story doesn’t have a happy end this time.”
Jörg Bergmeister (#91 Porsche 911 RSR): “The race was extremely varied. Although we didn’t quite have the pace we had hoped for, we were looking good in the race for quite some time. We would have been very pleased with a podium finish. Unfortunately technical gremlins prevented this – which can always happen at a 24-hour race. Le Mans was still the highlight of the year for me.”
Richard Lietz (#91 Porsche 911 RSR): “The week at Le Mans was a rollercoaster of emotions. In qualifying we were just 1.6 seconds behind. The tyres and the heat made my first stint very difficult. But then our 911 RSR gradually improved. The driving was great fun and in the night we were even running in second. But later we experienced bad luck with the shock absorbers but we couldn’t do anything about it. In any case, we’ve learned a great deal. For me, Le Mans is again a very special and unique race. I’m already looking forward to Le Mans 2016.”
GTE-Pro class results:
1. Gavin/Milner/Taylor (GB/USA/USA), Chevrolet Corvette, 337 laps
2. Rigon/Calado/Beretta (I/GB/MC), Ferrari 458 Italia, 332
3. Bruni/Vilander/Fisichella (I/SF/I), Ferrari 458 Italia, 330
4. Sörensen/Thiim/Nygaard (DK/DK/DK), Aston Martin, 330
5. Lietz/Christensen/Bergmeister (A/DK/D), Porsche 911 RSR, 327
6. MacDowall/Stanaway/Rees (GB/NZ/BRA), Aston Martin, 3320
In the GTE-Am class it became a battle between Ferrari and Porsche. The two storied marquees exchanged blows and the two made up the top eight spots in the class.
Aston Martin came in on the pole position and looked like it was the sure class winner for most of the race. However, an incident near the end of the race knocked the #98 car out of competition.
With the #98 Aston Martin out, the #72 Ferrari 458 Italia took the class victory. This left a battle for second between the #77 Porsche 911 RSR and the #62 458 Italia. The #77 car managed to get second place with its drivers of Patrick Dempsey, Patrick Long and Marco Seefried. Notably this was the best finish at Le Mans yet for actor and former star of Grey’s Anatomy, Patrick Dempsey.
Patrick Long (#77 Porsche 911 RSR): “What a race. My last stint wasn’t easy, the speed that’s driven at Le Mans is incredible. My primary focus was on getting my car home unscathed. If I’ve learned one thing from my twelve Le Mans campaigns, it’s this: In the critical phase your car needs to be intact, only then do you have a chance. This is my third Le Mans attempt with Patrick and we’ve always dreamed of climbing the podium together. Now this dream has come true.”
Patrick Dempsey (#77 Porsche 911 RSR): “Le Mans is a wonderful race. It’s always a great experience to compete here. For us, the last race hour was a particularly tough battle but the whole team did everything they possibly could. Luckily we were rewarded with a podium result. For that alone, all the hard work of the last weeks and months were worthwhile. I’m proud of the team.”
Marco Seefried (#77 Porsche 911 RSR): “We experienced many narrow escapes in the race during the final phase. When I witnessed this from the pits I reckon my heart rate must have been higher than when I was in the car. It was my first time at Le Mans. I started with a lot of respect and over the course of the race I gradually worked my way into it. Le Mans is a cool race, but I never thought that such a speed could be maintained over the whole distance. It was tough work and the squad did everything right.”
GTE-Am class results:
1. Collard/Perrodo/Aguas (F/F/P), Ferrari 458 Italia, 332 laps
2. Dempsey/Long/Seefried (USA/USA/D), Porsche 911 RSR, 331
3. Sweedler/Bell/Segal (USA/USA/USA), Ferrari 458, 330
4. Perrodo/Collard/Aguas (F/F/P), Ferrari 458 Italia, 330
5. Giammaria/Mann/Cressoni (I/GB/I), Ferrari 458 Italia, 326
6. Chen/Vanellet/Parisy (TWN/F/F), Porsche 911 RSR, 320
8. Chen/Kapadia/Maassen (TWN/GB/NL), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 316
Sources: Porsche and Audi