24 Hours of Le Mans ends in staggering upset finish
Porsche has claimed its second consecutive victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its 919 Hybrid. The real story, however, is the spectaular fashion in which it did — snatching the win in the final stretch from the leading Toyota, which experienced a failure five minutes before the end of the race.
Toyota’s TS050 prototype had taken the lead early on and held on to the position for nearly the entire race. Its 2.4-liter V6 mated to a hybrid-electric system was outpacing the field in terms of efficiency, requiring a refuel every 14 laps as opposed to the Porsche’s 13 and Audi‘s 12.
Toyota’s victory — which would’ve marked the carmaker’s first at Le Mans — seemed inevitable until the penultimate lap, when the TS050 ground slowly to a halt in front of the pit row straight. That gave the Porsche, which had been running 1m24s behind, all the time it needed to catch up and clinch the win.
Driver Kazuki Nakajima was able to get the car started again but the breakdown prevented him from completing the lap under the mandatory six minutes, resulting in an NC (Not Classified) ranking, effectively the same as a DNF.
The loss was particularly painful for Japanese fans, as it would have marked the 25th anniversary of the last Japanese car to win, the 1991 Mazda 787B. In addition, while Japanese drivers have won in non-Japanese cars, it would have been the first win for a Japanese driver in a Japanese car.
A second Toyota TS050 followed in second place, with an Audi R18 rounding out the podium in third in what surely will go down as one of the most memorable Le Mans finishes in history.