Following an incredible day of absolutely flat-out racing at the historic Le Mans circuit, Porsche claimed an emphatic win in the 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours. Perhaps most incredible of all was that the winning drivers were the three LMP1 rookies: Nico Hülkenberg, Nick Tandy and New Zealand’s Earl Bamber.
Hülkenberg was the man who took the chequered flag for Porsche. As rain descended upon the Circuit de la Sarthe for the final fifteen minutes of racing, hearts were held in mouths as we waited to see if the rain would increase sufficiently to require pitstops for rain tyres.
In the end, the most extreme precipitation came only from the eyes of works drivers, Porsche Racing team personnel and Dr. Wolfgang Porsche himself, who had joined Porsche CEO, Matthias Müller, in the 919 garage. Rounding Arnage with less than a minute remaining, Porsche number 19 slowed to a crawl to prevent another lap at racing speed in the mist, crossing the line in first place after 24 hours and 24 seconds of racing.
The emotions hit home as 919 LMP1 Hybrid number 19 rolled underneath the chequered flag to claim Porsche’s 17th overall win at Le Mans: Hülkenberg breaking into tears of joy over the radio in a moment that obviously resonated deeply for the F1 driver who had stuck his reputation on the line this weekend.
“I am speechless right now to be honest,” said Hülkenberg. “To come here on my first attempt and end up on the top step: I am super super happy and also very happy for Porsche. We are incredibly proud that Porsche is back at Le Mans. We couldn’t expect to come here on our first time and win this: the car was reliable, we made no mistakes and that is what got us the top prize this weekend.”
“I couldn’t think of two guys I would rather share this car with,” said a tearful Nick Tandy in the winners’ arena. “We’ve run here not just for 24 hours but we’ve done the test here, two weeks ago we did the complete practice; we haven’t put a mark on this car, all the guys have not made a single mistake.
“We’re stood here talking to you guys (Eurosport) because we’ve just won the biggest race in the world. I could retire from racing tomorrow and I could look back on today and I’m sure I’d be happy for the rest of my life: I can keep this video for all my family forever. Many people don’t get a chance to race in this event, let alone get a chance to come here and win. I’m very, very happy.” Tandy’s expression started wobbling here and I was starting to go also. What huge emotion and what a mega drive.
Earl Bamber, Nico Hulkenberg and Nick Tandy took their victory exactly 45 years to the day after Porsche’s first win at La Sarthe. This was a 1-2 for Weissach, as Bernhard, Hartley and Webber took second place in the number 17 919. Further behind the LMP1 cars, Patrick Dempsey, Patrick Long and Marco Seefried took second place on the podium in GTE-Am: an extraordinary achievement for the team.
“It’s hard to put into words what this means,” said Pat Dempsey, also welling up before getting on the podium. “What the effort was and the support we got from everybody to make it possible to be here. The team did a great job in all the pitstops, and Patrick and Marco drove beautifully through the whole race and into the night when it was really tough.
“Patrick’s been pushing me and coaching me all year and putting me in every kind of crazy car I could get into. It makes a big difference to be here and now, to be up there (eyes podium) is definitely a dream come true. This is what we were focusing on all year.”
This is all just sinking in at the minute: no doubt more details will emerge when the drivers get a chance to tell their stories. Can’t wait to hear from our heroes but until then, well done to the entire Porsche Racing team! This is a dream come true for us all. Here’s a Porsche video from the start of the race: who would have thought that the rookies could do it?!