Porsche claim dramatic Le Mans win as Toyota fails on final lap
Porsche denied Toyota a historic maiden overall victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans as Japanese driver Kazuki Nakajima ground to a halt on the final lap, handing a dramatic victory to Neel Jani’s car.
Nakajima had been leading by over a minute with less than two minutes remaining when his Toyota TS050 Hybrid lost all power, allowing Porsche to snatch the victory and break Japanese hearts as victory went to the #2 car driven by Jani, Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb.
It had looked for all the world as if Toyota would be celebrating a maiden and well deserved victory after a brilliant stint from Davidson laid the foundations early on Sunday, the Briton catching and passing Marc Lieb before handing over duties to Nakajima with a comfortable, and seemingly decisive, margin.
Yet an incident-filled Le Mans had one final, harsh surprise in store for Toyota. It seemed like a cruel joke on his celebrating pit crew when Nakajima exclaimed that he was losing power with only a lap left to run. But the reality soon set in that after 23 hours and 58 minutes of racing, the Japanese was actually deadly serious as the Porsche first caught then swept past an ailing Toyota that failed to even make the finish. It means that Porsche has won the historic race for a second year in succession.
A joyous Jani could scarcely believe his luck and was joined on the podium by teammates Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas to celebrate the unlikliest of victories. The mistortune of Nakajima elevated the second Toyota of Stephane Sarrazin to second place, albeit three laps adrift after teammate Kamui Kobayashi earlier went off the circuit at the Porsche Curves before a cooling issue further hampered its chances. The two Audis, their race compromised by a number of issues, finished third and fourth.
Nicolas Lapierre piloted the Signatech Alpine A460 Nissan to P2 class victory with Dirk Muller claiming another historic victory, winning the Pro battle in the 68 Ford GT to give the famous marque their first Le Mans victory since 1969.
German's Marc Lieb drives his Porsche 919 Hybrid N°2 during the 84th Le Mans 24-hours endurance race, on June 19, 2016 in Le Mans, western France.AFP
Pre-race favourites for many, Porsche lost the no.1 car of Mark Webber, Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley from contention with a water pump issue before midnight.
How the race unfolded
13:00 - One hour remaining
Toyota is closing in on a historic maiden overall victory as the 24 Hours of Le Mans enters its final hour.
With Kazuki Nakajima behind the wheel of the no.5 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, it would be a fitting finish for the Japanese marque.
Nakajima currently leads Neel Jani’s no.2 Porsche by a not entirely comfortable 32.092s and both drivers may need to make one more stop.
Anthony Davidson laid the early groundwork for the current leaders, catching and passing Marc Lieb before handing over duties to Nakajima with a comfortable, if not decisive, margin.
The second Toyota of Stephane Sarrazin is three laps adrift in third after Kazuki Nakajima went off the circuit before a cooling issue further hampered their chances.
Next come the two Audis, their race compromised by a number of issues.
Nicolas Lapierre leads the P2 class in the Alpine Nissan with Dirk Muller winning the Pro battle for in the 68 Ford GT after Toni Vilander spun his Ferrari to lose ground at the Porsche Curves.
The 84th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans now appears to be a straight fight for victory between the no.5 Toyota and no.2 Porsche as the historic race dips into the final two hours of racing.
A stellar shift from Anthony Davidson means that Kazuki Nakajimi now enjoys a 29 second lead over Neel Jani’s Porsche with the second Toyota third but three laps adrift having stopped to rectify cooling issues.
The two Audis come next but are several laps adrift having battles a multitude of problems. But nothing comes close to the heartbreak of the second no.1 Porsche, whose race was done last night after losing over ten laps in the pits with a serious water pump problem.
Stephane Richelmi leads the P2 class in the Alpine Nissan with Dirk Muller winning the Pro battle for in the 68 Ford GT after Toni Vilander spun his Ferrari to lose ground at the Porsche Curves.
Anthony Davidson has put the no.5 Toyota in a strong position to challenge for outright victory at Le Mans after a stellar stint saw him catch and pass the no.2 Porsche of Marc Lieb.
Davidson hunted down and passed the Porsche almost bang on the 20 hour mark and immediately began to put some distance between the cars. He now leads by a minute.
A heavy crash from Mathew Rao’s Manor into the Porsche curves then brought about a yellow flag situation but that played further into Davidson’s hands as a 25 second lead stretched to 46 seconds.
Behind the lead duo there was drama as Kamui Kobayashi spun coming out of the Porsche curves, the Japanese driver lucky not to beach in the gravel to retain slim hopes of victory.
Audi are now seemingly out of contention after problems with both cars have seen them drop to 13 and 17 laps behind respectively.
Stephane Richelmi leads the P2 class in the Alpine Nissan with Joey Hand winning the GTE Pro battle for Ford after Toni Vilander spun at the Porsche Curves.
After a gripping night of racing, less than two seconds now separate Anthony Davidson’s no.5 Toyota and the no.2 Porsche of Marc Lieb, Davidson just having passed the Porsche on the track.
Since the start of racing, it has been an intriguing game of cat and mouse between the German and Japanese marques with the no.8 Audi having just pitted with problems three laps behind.
Porsche lost the no.1 car of Webber, Bernhard and Hartley from contention with a water pump issue before midnight but the remaining car has soldiered on in its battle with the two Toyotas.
The race looks set to go down to the wire with little over four hours of racing remaining, Kamui Kobayashi 21 seconds off the lead with the no.8 Audi two now seemingly out of contention.
Gustavo Menezes leads the P2 class in the Alpine Nissan with Joey Hand winning the GTE Pro battle for Ford having just passed Matteo Malucelli’s Ferrari.
The no.2 Porsche has taken over the lead of the 24 Hours of Le Mans but the challenge of the lead Porsche seems to be over.
All appeared to be going well as Timo Bernhard handed over driving duties to Brendon Hartley approaching a quarter to midnight local time but the New Zealander managed just one lap before being called back to the pits with a serious problem.
At the time of writing, the no.1 Porsche is currently in the pits, having already lost ten laps due to what is thought to be a water pump problem. The quest for victory now seems to be over for Hartley, Webber and Bernhard.
A lengthy safety car period followed as Paul Dalla Lana’s Aston Martin clipped the barriers on the opposite side of the Porsche Curves, forcing marshals to clear away the debris and repair guard rails.
On resumption, Jani took over the lead from Mike Conway's Toyota with the sister Toyota of Sebastien Buemi in third, Loic Duval's Audi a lap further behind. Victory now seems to be between that bunch but much can happen with 15 hours of racing to go.
Pierre Thiriet leads the P2 class in the Oreca 05 Nissan with Dirk Muller winning the GTE Pro battle for Ford when we closed for the night.
Stephane Sarrazin continues to lead the 24 Hours of Le Mans after night fell on the Circuit de la Sarthe.
Sarrazin took over driving duties from teammate Kamui Kobayashi and now leads Neel Jani by 20.218s, the sister Porsche having passed Timo Bernhard after the German lost a huge amount of time in a slow zone period as marshals removed a stranded car between Mulsanne and Indianapolis.
The second Toyota, piloted by Kazuki Nakajima, is fourth ahead of the no.8 Audi. Alexandre Imperatori’s Rebellion jumped ahead of the second Audi of Benoit Treluyer, who over five minutes with a problem in the pits.
Pierre Thiriet leads the P2 class in the Oreca 05 Nissan with Dirk Muller winning the GTE Pro battle at the time of writing and Pedro Lamy top of the Amateur class.
Frenchman Stephane Sarrazin is the new race leader of the 24 Hours of Le Mans after seven hours of racing.
He took over the driver duties from teammate Kamui Kobayashi and managed to maintain the lead, despite the team having made one less stop than the second, third and fourth placed cars of Timo Bernhard (Porsche), Kazuki Nakajima (Toyota) and Neel Jani (Porsche).
A blue flag period has just been completed after Marino Franchitti went straight on into the gravel trap at the Mulsanne corner.
Stephane Riquelme leads the P2 class for Nissan with Sebastien Bourdais winning the GTE Pro battle at the time of writing.
And former France and Manchester United goalkeeper Fabien Barthez is driving his first stint but is currently under investigation for speeding in a slow zone.
Kamui Kobayashi continues to lead the 24 Hours of Le Mans after six hours of racing.
Mark Webber had built a healthy lead for the no.1 Porsche during his first stint behind the wheel, building a 17 second lead over fellow former F1 driver Kobayashi.
But when Webber pitted, handing over duties to Timo Bernhard, it put the Toyota back into the lead. But the Japanese marque has made one less stop, so Porsche will once again retain control.
The second Toyota of Anthony Davidson is third at the time of writing from the second Porsche of Neel Jani.
Ryo Hirakawa leads the P2 class for Nissan with Matteo Malucelli winning the GTE Pro battle.
Quadruple amputee Frederic Sausset made his Le Mans debut, the remarkable Frenchman driving a specially adapted Morgan LMP2.
Former France and Manchester United goalkeeper Fabien Barthez is driving his first stint, currently 18th in his Ligier.
Toyota leads the LMP1 class after the fifth hour of running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Kamui Kobayashi replaced another former F1 star at the front of the field after Mark Webber came in for Porsche’s sixth pit stop with Anthony Davidson’s Toyota third at the time of writing.
The second Porsche of Marc Lieb lies fourth, ahead of the only Audi in serious contention, piloted by Oliver Jarvis.
Ryo Hirakawa leads the P2 class for Nissan with Joey Hand’s Ford GT winning the GTE Pro battle.
Sir Chris Hoy has also entered the fray in the Algarve Pro Racing Ligier and is currently running a very respectable 21st in the LMP2 class.
Mark Webber leads during the fourth hour of running in the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans in the LMP1 class.
Webber took over driving duties from teammate Brendon Hartley during Porsche’s fourth stop and resumed in third position, handing the lead to the Toyotas. But when the Japanese team also pitted, Webber retained the lead from another former Formula One driver, Kamui Kobayashi.
Oliver Jarvis is third at the time of writing in the no. 8 Audi but disaster struck the second Audi of Lotterer, Treluyer and Fassler at the start as several laps were lost due to a faulty turbocharger. Marc Lieb is fourth in the second Porsche ahead of Anthony Davidson’s Toyota.
Matthew Rao leads the P2 class for Manor Racing with Toni Vilander’s Ferrari winning the GTE Pro battle. Sir Chris Hoy has also entered the fray in the Algarve Pro Racing Ligier and is currently running a very respectable 20th in the LMP2 class.
Brendon Hartley has put the no. 1 Porsche into the lead during the third hour of running of the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans in the LMP1 class.
Torrential rain meant that much of the opening hour was run behind the safety car with visibility practically down to zero.
And when racing proper did eventually start, Mike Conway passed pole sitter Neel Jani’s Porsche for the lead at the end of the second lap.
Disaster struck the second Audi of Lotterer, Treluyer and Fassler as several laps were lost due to a faulty turbocharger whilst the lead swapped several times at the front of the field between Audi, Porsche and Toyota as conditions dried and cars took on fuel.
At the time of writing, Hartley continues to lead from Conway’s Toyota and Loic Duval’s Audi.
Roberto Mehri leads the P2 class for Manor Racing with Toni Vilander’s Ferrari winning the GTE Pro battle.