The 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans is now officially on the books, with this year seeing all the drama and history-making moments you’d expect given the prestigious event’s 82 runnings. Taking overall victory in the premiere LMP1 class was the #19 2015 Porsche Hybrid 919, which put an end to Audi’s five-year winning streak in convincing fashion. In LMP2, the #47 KCMG Oreca-Nissan squeaked by for a hotly contested first-in-class finish, while the #64 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R took victory in the GTE-Pro class and the #72 SMP Ferrari 458 Italia won in GTE-Am.

This year saw a good deal of extremely close competition throughout the twice-around-the-clock time period, with the rain only beginning to fall in the final minutes of the race.

This also meant speeds were as high as ever, with the average velocity of the winning LMP1 team calculated at 153.5 mph. The cars also managed to eclipse the 300-km/h (186-mph) mark five times per lap, reaching a top speed of 211 mph down the straights. When the checkered finally fell, the winning Porsche had completed 395 laps, a distance of 3,345 miles.

Pilots in the winning car saw three-hour stints behind the wheel, averaging a pit stop every 45 minutes for fuel and tire changes every three hours.

The next race on the World Endurance Championship calendar is the 6 Hours of Nurburgring at the end of August.

Continue reading for the full story.

Safety Car Periods

The first safety car period was seen when the #92 GTE-Pro Porsche off-loaded its oil at the entry of the first chicane on the Mulsanne Straight, causing several spins. One of those caught out was the #13 LMP1 Rebellion of Alex Imperatori. Despite damage to the front of the car, Imperatori managed to get the #13 back to the pits for repairs and continued.

Not long afterward, before the three-hour mark, a yellow caution at the approach to Indianapolis created a traffic bottleneck, resulting in the #8 LMP1 Audi juking around the slower cars, colliding with a Ferrari, and spinning into a barrier, heavily damaging the front and rear. Luckily, the car made it back to the pits and remerged just four minutes later, bodywork repaired (duct tape fixes all). Meanwhile, a 45-minute safety car period was required to mend the barriers.

The safety cars were once again put into service when the #96 GTE-Am Aston Martin had a big crash at the exit of the Porsche curves. Driver Roald Goethe was conscious after the impact, but was put under medical observation as a precaution.

LMP1

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Porsche’s victory at this year’s 24 HOLM is a momentous occasion for the automaker. It’s Porsche’s first outright win at Le Mans since 1998, for a record 17 wins total. What’s more, 2015 is only the second year since the automaker’s return to the sport, with Porsche failing to finish in even the top 10 in 2014.

Bringing home the win behind the wheel of the #19 car were Earl Bamber and Formula 1 Force India-driver Nico Hulkenberg, both Le Mans rookies. Joining them was Nick Tandy, who has two previous Le Mans outings in lower classes on his resume.

“I enjoyed every moment, these cars are great fun to drive and then to be on a huge track like this one,” said Hulkenberg, “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.”

Finishing a lap down in second place was another Porsche – the #17 car driven by Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard, and Former F1-star Mark Webber. The second place is Webber’s best finish in four starts at Le Mans.

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Despite an early charge from Audi, the #17 Porsche stayed in front for most of Saturday. However, after a third of the race was complete, the #17 was forced to drop back after Hartley mistakenly overtook a car under a yellow caution, incurring a one-minute penalty and allowing the #19 car to slip into the lead. Once out front, the #19 didn’t budge.

“The guys in the number 19 car did a great job,” said Webber. “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.”

Finishing two laps behind the winning Porsche was the #7 Audi, driven by last year’s winning roster of Benoit Treluyer, Andre Lotterer, and Marcel Fassler. Audi won all but three 24 HOLM races since 2000, making this year’s results an outlier with a third, fourth, and seventh place finish. The #7 car experienced a string of bad luck, including multiple trips to the pits with just a few hours left in the race.

Despite an early charge from Audi, the #17 Porsche stayed in front for most of Saturday.

"We were very competitive yesterday, it went well for us on Saturday but things changed overnight," said Audi director Wolfgang Ullrich. "We had a problem with our bonnets, which never happened to us before. It’s something we’ll have to study and rectify back home."

The championship-defending Toyotas finished sixth and eighth.

The unusual FWD Nissans had a particularly rough outing, with only one of the three entries managing to cross the checkered in 40th after completing only 242 laps. After failing to complete a qualifying lap within 110 percent of the pole sitter, the cars were forced to start the race from the back over safety concerns regarding pace. Then came further setbacks, with the #23 car delayed due to clutch problems and the first retirement coming at the 10-hour mark when the #21 car lost a wheel. The #23 car then retired with suspension problems. The #22 car wasn’t without issue either, hitting debris entering the Indianapolis Corner at 211 mph, forcing a return to the pits before reentering the race. However, Nissan says it’s happy it was able to get at least a single car to finish with this extremely fresh team and car.

LMP2

The 19-car LMP2 class finished in spectacular fashion, with all three podium spots clinched on the same lap. At the top was the pole-sitting #47 KCMG Oreca-Nissan driven by Matthew Howson, Richard Bradley and Nicolas Lapierre. Only 48 seconds behind was a second-place finish from the #38 JOTA Sport Gibson 015S-Nissan driven by Oliver Turvey, Simon Dolan, and Mitch Evans, with the #26 G-Drive Racing Ligier JS P2-Nissan coming in third.

The #47 team had a few scares along the way, including an off with the #23 LMP1 Nissan in hour 19, and an overshoot of Indianapolis in hour 22. However, each time the car resumed without incident.

The win is the team’s fourth in the WEC, with the last coming last year in Brazil. It’s also the first win at Le Mans by a Hong Kong-entered team.

GTE-Pro

Four hours into the race, the pro touring car class saw a four-way battle for first, offering a good deal of excitement along the way. Out front was the pole-sitting #99 and #97 Aston Martins, both of which looked comfortable in the lead.

The ‘Vette traded frequently with the hard-charging 458 Italias, but in the end managed to clinch victory with a five lap lead over the Italians, bringing home the first class win for Corvette since 2011.

However, the Brits didn’t stay there forever, eventually seeing retirement when the #99 car sustained contact damage and the #97 car ran into mechanical issues.

This opened up a spot for the #64 Corvette driven by Jordan Taylor, Olivier Gavin, and Tommy Milner. The #64’s sister car, #63, pulled out after a heavy crash in qualifying, making the #64 the only C7.R on track.

The ‘Vette traded frequently with the hard-charging 458 Italias, but in the end managed to clinch victory with a five lap lead over the Italians, bringing home the first class win for Corvette since 2011.

In second was the #71 AF Corse Ferrari driven by James Calado, Davide Rigon, and Olivier Beretta, which managed to leap ahead of the #51 AF Corse Ferrari after gearbox issues dropped #51 to third.

GTE-Am

The #98 Aston Martin looked poised to clinch victory in GTE-Am, dominating most of the race until driver Paul Dalla Lana had an off at the Mulsanne Corner in the final hour, ending their effort. This allowed the #72 SMP Ferrari 458 Italia driven by Voctor Shaytar, Anrea Bertolini, and Aleksei Basov to take a class win after a flawless set of stints. Following the Ferrari in second was the #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing 2013 Porsche 911 RSR driven by Patrick Long, Marco Seefried, and Patrick Dempsey, a first Le Mans podium finish for both Seefried and Dempsey. Finally, the #62 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia finished third, with Townsend Bell, Bill Sweedler and Jeff Segal also enjoying their first podium at Le Mans.

Press Release

Mission accomplished: Porsche has achieved its 17th overall Le Mans victory at the 83rd running of the famous 24-Hour race in a perfect way with a one-two finish. Drivers Earl Bamber (NZ), Nico Hülkenberg (GER) and Nick Tandy (GB) won the coveted trophy in their innovative Porsche 919 Hybrid exactly 45 years after Porsche’s first overall win at La Sarthe was achieved. Timo Bernhard (GER), Brendon Hartley (NZ) and Mark Webber (AUS) in the sister car added the icing on the cake when they came home in second. Romain Dumas (FR), Neel Jani (CH) and Marc Lieb (GER) brought home the third Porsche 919 Hybrid in fifth.

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No other brand has managed to win the world’s toughest endurance race so many times and is connected that closely to the myth of Le Mans. The previous win was also a one-two – back in 1998 when Allan McNish (GBR), Laurent Aiello (FRA) and Stéphane Ortelli (MC) finished first in their Porsche GT1.

Matthias Müller, CEO Porsche AG said: “This one-two finish in Le Mans 2015 is such a fabulous result we wouldn’t have dreamed of. The entire team has done a great job over the recent three or four years and well deserve this success.”

Wolfgang Hatz, Member of Board for research and Development Porsche AG, said: “A one-two finish in what is only our second year is an amazing reward for the guts of our engineers regarding the 919 Hybrid’s concept, and the relentless efforts of our 230 team members.”

Porsche only returned last year to the top level of endurance racing, attracted by the new efficiency regulations. In the brand’s Research Center in Weissach the most innovative car of the entire grid was developed. The Porsche 919 Hybrid has a trend-setting downsizing turbo engine and two energy recovery systems, which all together create a powertrain delivering around 1,000 HP. It works as a racing laboratory for the highest efficiency of future road going sports cars.

At the 83rd Le Mans 24-Hours all the systems of this highly complex race car were tested to their limits. Because of the very tight competition, especially between the Porsche 919 Hybrids and the Audi prototypes, the race went on in qualifying mode twice round the clock. In qualifying the three Porsches did not only lock out the front of the grid with a one-two-three, but also set a new qualifying record for the 13.629 kilometre long track. The pinnacle was also the performance of the pit crew, who managed 90 pit stops in total and were significantly faster than the competition.

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The winning number 19 prototype had started third on the grid, and for a short time at the beginning even dropped down the order to eighth before settling in sixth for a longer period. Of all things, it is the rookie crew that won the monstrous classic. Neither Formula One driver Nico Hülkenberg, who had the joy of being in the car at the most emotional moments of the race, being the start and the finish driver, nor Earl Bamber brought Le Mans experience with them. Nick Tandy, the third driver of the winning trio, had at least done two Le Mans 24-Hours for Porsche in the GT class. By doing super fast laps, staying calm but highly focused, the three of them drove a race with no errors and won it by their own merits.

In the early stages of the men and machine stressing marathon the number 17 Porsche had been leading. However, a one-minute stop-and-go penalty at the end of the first third of the race dropped them back to fourth. Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley and Mark Webber kept their heads down and worked hard. With a consistently strong performance they made it up to second place.

The crew of the third Porsche 919 Hybrid had a rather tricky race. Pole-setter Neel Jani lost the lead right after the start to Timo Bernhard. For some time the drivers were unhappy with the braking stability, and two offs from the track didn’t help either. Given that chronology of events, more than fifth place wasn’t within reach this time for the fast trio with the number 18 car.

Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1: “It is an incredible achievement to win Le Mans in only our second attempt since Porsche’s return. I have to thank this brilliant team that has been growing together over the last three and a half years. The Porsche board backed us one hundred per cent from the word go. It will take a few days to realise what we have achieved. I know that a lot of people have virtually lived for this dream to come true and have pursued it with the greatest commitment.”

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Andreas Seidl, Team Principal: “It is hard to find words because it is just so difficult to believe we have done that. It is a fantastic reward for the tough work the team did here on the race track and back home in Weissach over the last three and a half years. We knew we were a lot better prepared than last year, but no way could we expect this result. We didn’t benefit from any situations, but were on a winning level in every regard - be it the mechanics in the garage or the engineers doing the strategy. The pit stops were outstanding. The drivers were sensational. Congratulations to the three winning guys.”

Alexander Hitzinger, Technical Director LMP1: “We are really happy now. It is an incredible feeling to win in Le Mans and one that you cannot describe with words. I am especially satisfied for the team, which has put so much passion and hard work into this project. We have achieved such a great development over the last two years and this one-two result is the reward for it.”

Timo Bernhard (car number 17): “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.”

Brendon Hartley (car number 17): “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.”

Mark Webber (car number 17): “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.”

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Romain Dumas (car number 18): “That is a great success for Porsche. Sadly, we didn’t have a good race with our car, because we had some problems. But the most important thing is that we proved that Porsche can win. That was the main target. For sure it was not easy for us. But that’s part of the game. This success is a big reward for all the efforts that we have put in since the end of 2012.”

Neel Jani (car number 18): “It wasn’t the race for the crew of number 18 today, but we finished and at least took some championship points with us. For Porsche this one-two success is just amazing.”

Marc Lieb (car number 18): “This is a great day for the entire team and for Porsche. I am very proud to be part of it. Congratulations to the 19 and 17 crews. A one-two for Porsche in Le Mans is really big. We had hoped for more for our car crew, but it wasn’t our day. Nevertheless we will party tonight.”

Earl Bamber (car number 19): “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.”

Nico Hülkenberg (car number 19): “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.”

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