You know it’s a bizarre Le Mans race when an LMP2 team is in the frame for victory with just two hours left to go. In the end, though, it was a familiar brand on the top step, with the No.2 Porsche coming from 18 laps down to claim victory.
Timo Bernhard and Earl Bamber picked up their second Le Mans wins, while it was Brendon Hartley’s first. The No.2 car suffered a motor generator unit failure in hour four and spent a considerable time in the garage, but by the end of the race, it was the only LMP1 car in contention.
In fact, an LMP2 car – the No.38 Jackie Chan DC Racing (yep, that’s actually what the team is called) – narrowly missed out on finishing first outright but still claimed P2 ahead of the No.13 Rebellion LMP2. So, as you can expect with such a strange result, the race featured a lot of heartbreak and drama:
In a 24-hour race, you want to finish at the end. And if you can’t make it to the chequered flag, you at least want to give it a good go. The only LMP1 privateer, ByKolles, only managed seven laps in total.
Running over debris on lap one led to it hitting the wall at Tertre Rouge and while it did get out again, it was retired in the second hour with an engine issue. Considering the race was thrown wide open due to madness we’ll get to later, ByKolles could’ve scored a good result.
The No.7 Toyota TS050 looked to be the car to beat. After all, Kamui Kobayashi had set a new lap record with the car in qualifying (see the epic video above) and despite briefly losing the lead early on, the LMP1 prototype hit the front once again and started to build a commanding lead as night approached.
But, it all turned sour in the 10th hour when Kobayashi’s car developed a clutch problem and ground to a halt. After an agonising wait while the Japanese driver tried to get the car going but he ended up retiring on track.
As if it couldn’t get any more difficult for Toyota at the Circuit de la Sarthe, with the No.8 car already out of contention after losing a lot of ground with an early hybrid issue, the No.9 then picked up the brand’s Le Mans curse.
Just minutes after Kobayashi’s car retired, the No.9 driven by Nicolas Lapierre was hit by the No.25 Manor LMP2 car. He picked up a puncture and tried to get to the pitlane but that only damaged the car further, and there was even a brief fire. Naturally, for Toyota, it couldn’t continue and that was two cars out of action before the half-way mark.
So, with the Toyotas out the way, the No.1 Porsche took up the reigns at the front of the pack and quickly established a huge lead – in part due to the other misfortune of the other LMP1 cars. But, of course, there was more drama to come…
With just three hours left of Le Mans, the No.1 suddenly slowed with a lack of oil pressure. Again, there was a desperate effort to try and get the car back to the pits but it to be impossible. Andre Lotterer had a 13-lap lead at the time, so it was looking pretty good….
Of course, the No.2 Porsche eventually won, but the car came from a long way behind and had it picked up further issues, we could well have seen an LMP2 car winning overall. Which would’ve been an even crazier end to the race.
The No.26 G-Drive LMP2 car started on pole after a mighty effort from F2 racer Alex Lynn, but the team’s race quickly unravelled when Roman Rusinov slipped to 14th on the first lap, before a spin and trip to the pits for a nose change. All that hard work in qualifying, wiped out completely.
Trying to fight back, in the second hour Rusinov attempted a move on the No.88 Porsche in the quick left-hander of the famous Porsche Curves. Quite an ambitious spot to try an overtake and it backfired, with the two cars clashing and crashing into the barrier.
So, not only heartbreak for the rest of the No.26 crew after such a strong showing pre-race, but also the Porsche that was innocently involved in the accident. Both cars ended up retiring. LMP2 cars hitting GT machines proved to be a trend in the first part of the race…
In GTE Pro, the battle for victory was absolutely manic. After 23 hours of racing, the top two were incredibly close on track and we witnessed a brilliant battle between the No.97 Aston Martin and the No.63 Corvette. Jonny Adam tried a move with three to go but it proved unsuccessful.
He kept the pressure on, with Jordan Taylor even skipping the second Mulsanne chicane. The Corvette looked to be struggling and just as the cars entered the final lap, with not much separating them, Taylor’s car slowed with a puncture. Adam skipped into the lead and snatched the class win in the dying moments. That’s got to hurt for Corvette…
It was quite a Le Mans! Did you tune in? Let us know your favourite moments in the comments!