The Porsche No. 2 team of Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb won the 2016 Le Mans 24 Hours race Sunday in the most dramatic finish in the event's history.
The Toyota No. 5 trio of Anthony Davidson, Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi looked to be in the clear with just three minutes to go, holding around half a minute on the eventual winners. But with Nakajima behind the wheel, the Toyota car lost power on the penultimate lap, allowing Jani to race past and take the title.
Here are the final moments of the race and a look at the contrasting emotions in both teams as Porsche secured back-to-back Le Mans wins, via Eurosport UK:
Davidson passed Lieb in the 21st hour and looked to have taken control of a three-way battle for the title; Toyota's No. 6 finished second.
|24 Hours of Le Mans 2016: Results|
|1||2||Porsche Team||Neel Jani||Porsche 919 Hybrid||384|
|2||6||Toyota Gazoo Racing||Stephane Sarrazin||Toyota TS050 Hybrid||381|
|3||8||Audi Sport Team Joest||Lucas di Grassi||Audi R18||372|
|4||7||Audi Sport Team Joest||Marcel Fassler||Audi R18||367|
|5||36||Signatech Alpine||Nicolas Lapierre||Alpine A460 Nissan||357|
|6||26||G-Drive Racing||Roman Rusinov||Oreca 05 Nissan||357|
|7||37||SMP Racing||Vitaly Petrov||BR01 Nissan||353|
|8||42||Strakka Racing||Danny Watts||Gibson 015S Nissan||351|
|9||33||Eurasia Motorsport||Pu Junjin||Oreca 05 Nissan||348|
|10||41||Greaves Motorsport||Julien Canal||Ligier JS P2||348|
For results in full, visit Motorsport.com.
Lady Luck Smiles on Porsche
The race began behind the safety car due to inclement weather, and much to the frustration of fans in attendance, it was a spell that lasted 53 minutes.
When the racing got underway, Toyota No. 6 seized initial control, with the Porsche team on pole pegged back.
Porsche lost more ground in the seventh round of pit stops, and Kamui Kobayashi retook the front for No. 6. Both Audi and Porsche ran into trouble, and the No. 6 preserved its position as the race passed the 10-hour mark, with Mike Conway putting in two superb stints.
Here is what Conway had to say after his brilliant effort, courtesy of Eurosport UK:
It was an advantage they also held at the halfway point with Kobayashi behind the wheel. Dumas, however, was just 44 seconds behind for Porsche No. 2 and looked to be closing the gap gradually. But Toyota soon had the top two cars in the race after Lieb suffered a puncture and had to come in.
But Jani began to make up ground as two safety cars disrupted the flow of the leaders up front.
When the race started to settle down again, the top three teams bunched up, promising a thrilling final quarter of the contest. Lieb had continued the good work done by Jani, and Porsche were suddenly a significant factor in the race. As such, the lead changed hands as the teams called their men in for pit stops.
Former Le Mans winner David Brabham was enjoying the tussle as the race intensified with four hours remaining:
Meanwhile, after another stint in the Toyota No. 6, Conway offered insight into how drivers refuel during what is a huge test of endurance:
The Toyota No. 5 team emerged in the best position. Porsche had a slender advantage at the end of the 21st hour, but Toyota's Davidson muscled past him, prompting a pit stop by Lieb and a driver change, which left Porsche over a minute off the lead.
Here is a look at the pass, via Eurosport UK:
The race was whittled down to two teams when Toyota No. 6 lost three minutes because of repairs; they'd suffered damage after coming into contact with a backmarker during the morning, and that was exacerbated when Kobayashi spun overnight.
They were in no danger of losing third position, though, as the Audi teams occupying fourth and fifth were a long way back. As noted by motorsports journalist Andrew Frankel, it's rare for Audi not to have a car in the top three sports:
When Davidson handed over to Nakajima with less than two hours to go, the No. 5 looked like the odds-on favorite to win the race. But then the Toyota lost power on the start-finish straightaway and was quickly overtaken by Jani.
Former Formula One driver Juan Pablo Montoya had his say on the incredible climax to the race:
Davidson posted this classy Twitter bulletin afterward:
Meanwhile, the Toyota team were a little more succinct in their reaction:
Porsche deserve credit for keeping a reasonable distance between themselves and Toyota late on. But after such a brilliant effort from Davidson, Nakajima and Buemi, their end was so cruel.
So often these races are won long before the 24 hours are up, as was the case with Porsche's dominant triumph 12 months ago. But these kinds of moments are what make Le Mans so special for those who sample success and so difficult for those who come up just short of glory.