It still seems unbelieveable and looked so unlikely for such a long time, but Porsche has won the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans. Driving the number 2 Porsche 919 LMP1 Hybrid, Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb were first to cross the line after a full day of racing to claim Porsche’s 18th Le Mans win.
I had just tweeted “with five minutes left, it looks like Porsche will have to wait until next year for win number 18” and was about to switch to Sky F1 for the start of the Baku Grand Prix, when a wounded number 5 Toyota – the leader – came onto the screen, slowing as it crossed the start/finish line for the penultimate lap. Crawling to a halt, the car looked like it would not be moving again, until it eventually restarted at a snail’s pace. Rumour has it that the car suffered turbo failure, but we don’t know for sure yet.
Porsche wins Le Mans
All the time this was unravelling, the Porsche 919 was getting closer and closer, having pulled a last minute stop for tyres and fuel. Jaw dropped, I deleted the tweet and sat spellbound in a combination of shock, joy and horror as the 919 started its very last lap. Soon enough, the car crossed the line and the Porsche garage went totally mental. We didn’t see what was going on in the Toyota pits but then the tweets started flying and it was obvious how upset the team was.
Worst of all, the Toyota was not classified as it had taken too long to complete its last lap. The Audi guys looked seriously uncomfortable on the third step of the podium, but that’s racing. We’ve lost enough races in the dying moments and a win is a win: the shoe could just as easily be on the other foot.
Winning Le Mans more important than winning a Championship
Winning at Le Mans – an overall win – is arguably more important and commercially beneficial than taking a championship. Toyota certainly seems to think so, as the story goes that this car was built specifically to win at Le Mans. If that is a fact, then the 919s win is even more impressive. Well done to all at Porsche Motorsport.