Porsche continues to dominate the 24 Hours of Le Mans race this year, coming up first once again in the grueling endurance racing event. This year’s win, a third straight win for the German automaker, was made possible by veteran German driver Timo Bernhard, who managed to steer the LMP1 category Porsche 919 Hybrid back into the lead within the last hour of the race and stayed there until the end.
But it was a close call though. With only three hours to go, the lead was maintained by the French team LMP2 category Oreca driven by 19-year-old Thomas Laurent, according to ESPN. Previously, Bernhard’s Porsche No. 2 encountered technical issues that took a little while to fix, resulting in more than an hour of race time wasted and placing the car at the 56th spot at one point in the race. Another Porsche driver, New Zealander Earl Bamber, had to admit that Bernard’s comeback win is nothing short of spectacular.
“It was absolutely crazy. When I heard it [the engine] go ‘bang,’ I thought 100 percent our race was over. The guys turned it around. We thought we would finish in the top five. But this race really chooses you when it wants you to win.”
Porsche’s win is a devastating blow to Toyota’s bid in securing its first 24 Hours of Le Mans win. As Saturday night ended, drivers Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Stephane Sarrazin still hold a substantial lead over their competitors. But then, problems started to arrive in what is now referred to as the Toyota curse.
Kamui Kobayashi was still in high spirits after Toyota, with its super fast cars, dominated the 24 Hours of Le Mans qualifying round in Circuit de la Sarthe. In fact, Kobayashi just broke a record, setting the fastest lap record for the race with three minutes, 14.791 seconds, shaving two seconds off the 2015 record by Neel Jani. Driving the Toyota No. 7, teammate Kazuki Nakajima’s performance in the qualifying is a close second clocking at 3:17.128.
But then Toyota’s string of bad luck started. On the tenth hour, the #7 TS050 Hybrid driven by Kamui Kobayashi started limping due to a clutch problem, Motorsport reported. But unlike its Porsche competitor, Kobayashi’s team was not able to recover soon enough to get back to the race.
“It is very hard at the moment because we had such amazing pace through the whole of the week. We were so competitive but we had a clutch problem and we couldn’t come back.”
Within minutes, Toyota’s other car likewise encountered a different problem. Driven by Nicolas Lapierre, car No. 9 punctured its rear tire and Lapierre was forced to stop when it started to catch fire.
Despite the setback, Toyota’s spirit remains unconquered. In fact, Kobayashi is already gearing up for another fierce 24 Hours of Le Mans next year.
“We will be back next year and we will have the opportunity again. For Toyota it is hard but we will come back very strongly and we have to win this race.”
Completing the top three spots are actor Jacky Chan’s DC Racing car at second and Vaillante Rebellion team’s Oreca LMP2 car driven by Nelson Piquet Jr and third.
Started in 1923, the prestigious annual 24 Hours of Le Mans is the world’s oldest sports car endurance racing event. At the moment, Porsche holds two distinct records in the race. The German car manufacturer holds the most number of wins with 19 overall victories. In addition, it also holds the record for straight wins at seven champions, a winning streak that ran from 1981 until 1987.
[Featured Image by Ker Robertson/Getty Images]