Disaster for Toyota hands last minute victory to Porsche at Le Mans

Brad Pitt (Photo by Melissa Warren)

Brad Pitt (Photo by Melissa Warren)In a dramatic conclusion to the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans, it was Porsche not Toyota that took the win.

Neel Jani, Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas took victory in the Porsche 919 Hybrid #2 in a spectacular twist of fate.

The #5 car driven by Kazuki Nakajima, Sébastien Buemi and Anthony Davidson came to a standstill just before the line as it was about to begin its final lap.

The Toyota TS 050 Hybrid with Nakajima at the wheel, rolled to a halt on the pit straight and had to watch the Porsche take the lead and ultimately the win.

Nakajima managed to complete the final lap but not within the 6-minute time limit and so was disqualified.

Neel Jani (at the wheel of the #2 Porsche for the finish): “I was told over the radio that the Toyota had stopped and that I was in with a chance of catching it if I stepped up the pace. As I went past, I saw it wasn’t moving. The last lap was surreal. I felt numb because I couldn’t believe it. When was the last time there was a breakdown in the last lap? I had to do a last minute stop at the end of the race with a tyre problem. We didn’t know whether it was a puncture or not and we chose to play it safe because we didn’t think we could win. From the start we knew the Toyota was going to stop every 14 laps but we couldn’t do the same. Our only hope was to make up the lost time on track. We didn’t manage it during the day but at night we were faster. I kept the pressure on right to the end, almost the same as in the qualifiers, because you never know.”

In the end, the #6 Toyota TS050 Hybrid was second and the #8 Audi R18 third.

The LM P2 win went to the #36 Alpine A460, powered by a Nissan engine and driven by Gustavo Menezes, Nicolas Lapierre and Stéphane Richelmi. The car had been leading since the tenth hour of the race.

The French marque has been competing in endurance racing for several seasons now and recently announced its commercial revival. Their success harks back to the manufacturer’s overall Le Mans win in 1978 with an Alpine A442B driven by Jean-Pierre Jaussaud and Didier Pironi.

Ford’s 50th anniversary comeback was triumphant as the #68 Ford GT driven by Joey Hand, Dirk Müller and Sébastien Bourdais clinched the LM GTE Pro class victory.

Sébastien Bourdais: “Today is a historic day. The race was incredible. We had to fight all the way. It was probably one of the best tussles this class has ever seen. To have history repeat itself is just unbelievable.”

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The Scuderia Corsa #62 Ferrari 458 Italia GT2 driven by Bill Sweedler, Townsend Bell and Jeff Segal won the LM GTE Am class.
Quadruple amputee Frédéric Sausset, this year’s Garage 56 entry, ran a remarkable race with teammates Christophe Tinseau and Jean-Bernard Bouvet. The car has no official ranking but crossed the line in 39th place overall.

Race results
1 – Porsche Team (#2 Porsche 919 Hybrid) Romain Dumas – Marc Lieb – Neel Jani
2 – Toyota Gazoo Racing (#6 Toyota TS050 Hybrid) Mike Conway – Kamui Kobayashi – Stéphane Sarrazin
3 – Audi R 18 Team Joest (#8 Audi R 18 Team Joest) Lucas Di Grassi – Loïc Duval – Oliver Jarvis

1. Signatech Alpine (#36 Alpine A460-Nissan) Gustavo Menezes – Nicolas Lapierre – Stéphane Richelmi
2. G-Drive Racing (#26 Oreca 05-Nissan) Roman Rusinov – Will Stevens – René Rast
3. SMP Racing (#37 BR Engineering BR01-Nissan) Vitaly Petrov – Viktor Shaitar – Kirill Ladygin

1 – Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA (#68 Ford GT) Joey Hand – Dirk Müller – Sébastien Bourdais
2 – Risi Competizione (#82 Ferrari 488 GTE) Giancarlo Fisichella – Toni Vilander – Matteo Malucelli
3 – Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA (#69 Ford GT) Ryan Briscoe – Richard Westbrook – Scott Dixon

1 – Scuderia Corsa (#62 Ferrari 458 Italia GT2) Bill Sweedler – Townsend Bell – Jeff Segal
2 – AF Corse (#83 Ferrari 458 Italia GT2) François Perrodo – Emmanuel Collard – Rui 
3 – Águas Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing (#88 Porsche 911 RSR) Khaled Al Qubaisi – Patrick Long – David Heinemeier Hansson By Melissa Warren

Track Action (Photo by Melissa Warren) Track Action (Photo by Melissa Warren) Podium (Photo by Melissa Warren)

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