Porsche dominated the 2015 Le Mans 24, taking the top two spots in comfortable fashion as favourites Audi suffered through a miserable race. Nico Hulkenberg, Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber cruised to a comfortable win in the No. 19 car, and per F1 Racing on NBC, Hulkenberg became the first active Formula One driver to accomplish the feat in 24 years:
The Force India driver told reporters such a feat would not be realistic earlier this season, something NBC Sports' Luke Smith gladly brought up:
The Porsche No. 17 finished in second place ahead of the No. 7 Audi, the most reliable of the Audi trio that fell well short of the expectations.
Here are the full results from the LMP1 race:
|2015 Le Mans 24: Results|
|Pos||No||Team||Type||Driver||Laps||Distance||Average Speed (km/h)|
|1||19||Porsche Team||Porsche 919 Hybrid||HULKENBERG Nico||395||247.1|
|2||17||Porsche Team||Porsche 919 Hybrid||HARTLEY Brendon||394||1 Lap||247.6|
|3||7||Audi Sport Team Joest||Audi R18 e-tron quattro||TRELUYER Benoit||393||2 Laps||248.5|
|4||8||Audi Sport Team Joest||Audi R18 e-tron quattro||DI GRASSI Lucas||392||3 Laps||248.0|
|5||18||Porsche Team||Porsche 919 Hybrid||JANI Neel||391||4 Laps||246.7|
|6||2||Toyota Racing||Toyota TS 040 - Hybrid||WURZ Alexander||387||8 Laps||242.1|
|7||9||Audi Sport Team Joest||Audi R18 e-tron quattro||ALBUQUERQUE Filipe||387||2:35.082||248.2|
|8||1||Toyota Racing||Toyota TS 040 - Hybrid||BUEMI Sebastien||386||9 Laps||244.2|
Audi were forced into making unscheduled pit stops throughout the morning, losing much ground on the two Porsche cars who easily led the field for the remainder of the race. Several heavy crashes overshadowed this year's event, however, with Aston Martin's Roald Goethe making particularly hard contact with the wall.
The German looked in pretty bad shape and was taken to the hospital, but Aston Martin confirmed he was conscious after a brief scare:
Incredibly, that may not even have been the most spectacular moment of this year's Le Mans 24. As shared by Car Throttle, there were two pit stop fires. The No. 66 Ferrari was involved in one of those and somehow made it back onto the track later in the night:
Porsche dominated the opening hour of the race, with Timo Bernhard leading the way behind the wheel of the No. 17 car. Audi managed to take advantage of the safety car to take the lead into the second hour, as Andre Lotterer ran a number of fast laps and employed a smarter pit strategy.
Soon after, the problems started for Audi. Loic Duval crashed the No. 8 car into the barriers, drawing out the safety car once again and allowing the Porsches to draw near. This set up a close battle as the sun started to set.
The German rivals exchanged leads in the early stages of the night, and Lemansrace.com was surprised to learn Porsche didn't just keep pace with Audi, but showed no signs of breaking down even at such terrific speeds:
In fact, at the midway point of the race, the two Porsches started building a gap of roughly one minute, with the No. 19 car leading the charge. Tandy took a very long stint at the wheel but proved more than capable, allowing his two fellow drivers to get some rest and start the next day fresher than their opponents.
Audi's issue certainly wasn't speed―in fact, all three cars broke the previous lap record that had stood for over 40 years, per Speed:
But you can't keep up with your opponents if you have to spend significant amounts of time in the pit lane, with Audi reporting issues with both the noses and engine covers of their cars.
Meanwhile, Hulkenberg was speeding away and lapping the field for Porsche, to the delight of politician and Force India team principal Vijay Mallya:
Goethe suffered his horrific crash just before Hour 18, allowing Audi to draw closer to the second Porsche. It hardly mattered, however, as the No. 7 Audi lost part of its bodywork and had to abandon the battle for second, and the No. 9 also spent time in the garage to have a front driveshaft changed.
In the end, the win was a comfortable one for Porsche, who were never troubled in the final hours and avoided any major damage to the car.
As shared by F1.com's Chris Medland, the fantastic efforts of Tandy and Bamber shouldn't be overlooked amid the praise for Hulkenberg:
The young Tandy was very emotional during his post-race interview, per Sky Sports' Tony Jardine, and the Brit highlighted how incredibly reliable the car had been:
Porsche were expected to be fast enough to challenge Audi, but nobody could have predicted the team would drive such a clean race and come away with so few issues. If anything, Audi was supposed to be the more reliable car, particularly after its performance at Spa.
Expect the team to invest heavily in its research department to find out what went wrong and avoid similar embarrassment next year. Audi and Le Mans have been almost synonymous in recent years, and the brand will have to bounce back from this emphatic defeat at the hands of Porsche.