To quote a racing legend, “If you ain’t first, you’re…
After a strong performance by both Porsche 919 Hybrids, the Porsche Team was left empty-handed after a dramatic final stage of the race. Following more than 22 hours, car No. 20 driven by Timo Bernhard (Germany), Brendon Hartley (New Zealand) and Mark Webber (Australia) suffered a powertrain problem at the world’s most famous endurance race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Earlier in the race the LMP1 class car was leading overall for a significant period of time. The second innovative and highly complex prototype – in the hands of Romain Dumas (France), Neel Jani (Switzerland) and Marc Lieb (Germany) – likewise proved to be very competitive, but was hampered by a drivetrain problem. However, their No. 14 car crossed the finish line under its own power.
After a thrilling start to the race with changing weather conditions, numerous accidents and a relatively calm night, Bernhard took the overall lead in the No. 20. The longtime Porsche factory driver returned to the top spot after 20 of the 24 hours. At 12:36 (CET) on Sunday, he handed the leading car over to Webber. Less than 20 minutes later the Australian was forced to slow down and drove solely on electric power back to pit lane. The team could not repair the damaged powertrain and the car was retired from competition.
Less than a half an hour later, the sister car with Lieb at the wheel had a gearbox failure. Car No. 14 was lying fourth before it was pushed into the garage at 12:54. Shortly before the checkered flag was waived, the Porsche 919 Hybrid returned to track but in the end was not classified.
Matthias Müller, Chairman of the Executive Board of Porsche AG: “Our return to Le Mans has been a strong team effort. It almost happened that our secret dream came true to top the debut of the Porsche 919 Hybrid with a podium finish. For a remarkable period we were leading the race. I want to thank everyone who contributed with hard work. Now we keep our heads up and will plan an even stronger return for 2015.”
Wolfgang Hatz, Board member for Research and Development Porsche AG: “It was our declared target to finish this race. This didn’t really work out, but at least we have managed to show the huge potential of the 919 Hybrid and its innovative powertrain. We believe in our courageous concept and we will develop it further. We have already started work on the 2015 race car.”
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1: “This result is not the reward our team deserved after this intense time of preparation work. We have had an unbelievable and unforgettable race with its highs and lows. Everyone in the entire team was working to the limits and never gave up. I am very proud of our team.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal LMP1: “At the moment, of course, there is a lot of disappointment. But if anyone would have told us before the race that the outcome would be what it was, we would have been very happy with it. We have learned a lot for next year and tomorrow we start to prepare for 2015. The drivers and the entire crew – everyone did a great job. We are proud to have brought one car to the finish line. To be able to fight with the other one for the silverware until shortly before the end was the icing on the cake.
Alexander Hitzinger, Technical Director LMP1: “Congratulations to Audi for the well-deserved victory. Certainly we are disappointed, because such a good result seemed to be within reach for us too. But still we can be proud of what we have achieved. We have proven that we have got a fast car and our competition has taken notice of the 919 Hybrid. It was our target to finish the race, but in a different way than we did. I am looking forward to the remaining races of the FIA World Endurance Championship and to Le Mans 2015. Today the car was not always easy to handle and our drivers did a great job. I want to thank them for that.”
Neel Jani: “Our car ran really well. At times we have been right at the front. Because such a huge potential was there, I am very disappointed about the result. On the other hand, we always knew that sustainability was crucial and difficult to achieve quickly.”
Marc Lieb: “I am rather lost for words, because it is hard to deal with incidents like those that occurred during the race. The no. 20 Porsche 919 Hybrid had a really fantastic race. They had no problems at all until shortly before the end. On the other hand, our no. 14 car was slowed down by some minor technical failures, which forced us to stop several times in the pits. Nevertheless, we did the best we could. Some one and a half hours before the checkered flag there was a bigger problem. The team managed to get the car running again and we finally managed to cross the line.”
Timo Bernhard: “I think, after all, it was a great return for Porsche – to come back to Le Mans and to the WEC after such a long time. But for me it is very sad because we were fighting very hard – at the end, in fact, also for the victory. It would have been a podium at least. It is hard to take, the guys did a great job. The car was running well. We had some difficult issues with the balance of the car, and it was not easy to drive. But in the end, I was saving fuel and keeping away from the curbs. And then we had a broken engine, which happened in first gear. But I think the bottom line is, it’s a great return by Porsche.“
Mark Webber: “That was tough for everyone. It would have been such an amazing achievement to go through to the finish. I think we never expected to be in such a great position towards the end of the race. What Porsche did is a very big feather in its cap. Few people know how hard it is to get the cars to this point in the race. I’m really sorry for the guys. There is never ever a good retirement in Le Mans, but today is one of the best you could probably have in a way, because we went so far and we learned so much. If you stop early you learn nothing and it’s tough. When you stop with a lap to go it’s probably even more brutal. It was our first time here at Le Mans and we were very close to the podium.“
Porsche 911 RSR Factory Program
The No. 92 Porsche Team Manthey Porsche 911 RSR raced by works drivers Marco Holzer (Germany), Frédéric Makowiecki (France) and Richard Lietz (Austria) took the checkered flag in third place in the GTE-Pro class at the 82nd edition of the long distance classic at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
The race on the 8.469-mile Circuit des 24 Heures kept more than 200,000 spectators on the edge of their seats with enthralling fights for positions and spectacular overtaking maneuvers. When two heavy rain showers left parts of the track underwater several hours after the start, the squad initiated the perfect pit stop strategy which put the Porsche 911 RSR in positions one-two. However, the winning car from last year, based on the seventh generation of the iconic 911 sportscar and one-two finisher of the Sports Car World Championship WEC season-opener, was unable to defend these positions over the rest of the marathon. In addition, during the night a fuel pressure problem cropped up with the No. 91 911 RSR driven by works drivers Joerg Bergmeister (Germany), Patrick Pilet (France) and Nick Tandy (Great Britain) which required an extra pit stop and finally dropped the trio back to seventh place after their strong performance.
Their factory pilot colleagues in the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR continued on their podium course. With three hours to the flag, they had moved up the order to second place before losing a position in the dramatic final phase. The podium result was a well-deserved reward for a strong performance under difficult conditions.
Porsche RSR and GT3 RSR Customer Teams
After a tough start to their Le Mans weekend, which included losing their primary car, being forced to run with only two drivers after Burt Curtis (Lake Sherwood, California) was not medically cleared to drive after the incident and then moving up to the GTE-Pro category filled with factory entries, Cooper MacNeil (Hinsdale, Illinois) and Jeroen Bleekemolen (The Netherlands) crossed the finish line in fifth. It was a herculean effort by the duo to complete the 24-hour distance with only two drivers rewarded by a strong finish.
ProSpeed Competition rebuilt an entire Porsche 911 GT3 RSR in less than 24 hours to provide a great racecar for the duo to tackle the twice around the clock race. Except for two tire punctures while Bleekemolen was at the wheel, the car never missed a moment of track time. As a result of having to limp the car around each time from the beginning of the Mulsanne Straight, more than four miles, and costing several laps, the two drivers drove triple stints throughout the night with MacNeil closing bringing the WeatherTech Racing Porsche to the line with a final effort to get a top five finish. Finishing ahead of several factory entries in the GTE-Pro class, the pair that won the American Le Mans Series GTC Championship in 2013 overcame great odds to have a successful weekend.
Scoring second in the GTE-Am class, Porsche junior Klaus Bachler (Austria) celebrated the greatest success of his career at his first ever Le Mans race. Sharing the cockpit of the Proton Competition customer team’s 911 RSR with his teammates Christian Ried and Khaled Al Qubaisi, the Porsche junior saw the flag at his Le Mans debut in second place.
In the 911 RSR campaigned by Dempsey Racing Proton, Porsche factory driver Patrick Long (Playa del Rey, California) and his American compatriots Patrick Dempsey (Malibu, California) and Joe Foster (Atlanta) delivered consistently fast lap times to finish in fifth place. Although the team had no major mechanical problems or incidents, a three-minute penalty for a pit lane violation set the only all-American driving team a full lap back early in the race, and the competition in front of them all ran relatively trouble-free.
Porsche 911 RSR and GT3 RSR Quotes
Hartmut Kristen, Head of Porsche motorsport: “Although it was enough for a podium spot, this year’s Le Mans was a little disappointing. Minor technical problems cropped up in both our 911 RSR, but as a total they were decisive. The crew and the drivers have done an excellent job and brought the cars safely home. I praise them for this. Congratulations as well to the Proton Competition squad for second place in the GTE-Am class. Given the performance rating, there was no better result possible for us.”
Olaf Manthey, Team Principal Porsche Team Manthey: “We tackled the race with other expectations, but small technical gremlins can always turn up all the time. That’s nothing new for me. I’ve been doing this for 40 years. Both cars reached the finish line and third place is good. You win some, you lose some. You just have to make it through.”
Marco Holzer (driver, No. 92): “It was a long and demanding race. We faced all weather conditions you could possibly imagine. At times it was dry, then it poured with rain, half the track was wet and half dry. The car ran like clockwork until we had to pit unexpectedly shortly before the finish. That cost us second place. But the team did a great job and we earned vital points for the WEC.”
Frédéric Makowiecki (driver, No. 92): “Thank you to my pit crew. They were very fast and didn’t make one mistake. We constantly tried to push to the max and get everything we could out of the car. I regard this podium spot as a basis for even better results in the second half of the season.”
Richard Lietz (driver, No. 92): “After scoring first and second last year we were all expecting more. But some of our rivals were bluffing at tests and only displayed their actual race speed here. We tried to keep up and my teammates really went flat out. The podium spot is the just reward for this. I’m certain we’ll return next year even stronger.”
Joerg Bergmeister (driver, No. 91): “That’s unfortunately not the result we wanted and were hoping for. We experienced a problem that relegated us back down the order. Other than that the car ran well. A podium result would definitely have been possible. Unfortunately, of all places we had this bad luck here where double points are awarded.”
Patrick Pilet (driver, No. 91): “Our car was perfectly prepared for the race, but we experienced a problem during the night. Okay, we solved it but it cost us a lot of time. For this reason we couldn’t do a thing about the outcome of the race. But still, we can be proud of our team and Porsche. Now we have to concentrate on the rest of the season.”
Nick Tandy (driver, No. 91): “It wasn’t the best race, but with the exception of this one problem the car ran very well. The entire crew did a fantastic job. If the second twelve hours had run as well as the first, we would have achieved a fabulous result.”
Klaus Bachler (driver, No. 88): “Second place is awesome. A dream has come true for me. We did everything right, kept out of trouble at the start, only refueled and changed the tires. That’s how we got ahead. Now we’re all over the moon.”
Patrick Long (driver, No. 77): “We certainly could have done more this year. Still, I’m satisfied with our performance as a team. Our car didn’t have the slightest technical problem and
Patrick [Dempsey] improved consistently and posted super times. Not everyone can climb the podium at Le Mans. If it was that easy then everyone would have a Le Mans trophy at home.”
Patrick Dempsey (driver, No. 77): “I drove really well, didn’t make any mistakes and my pace improved consistently. We all did a great job against such tough competition and I’m happy with the result and the team’s great performance. I’ll definitely be back at Le Mans next year.”
Cooper McNeil (driver, No. 79): “The car ran flawlessly the entire race, and we were two cut tires away from a podium finish today. The ProSpeed guys did a great job to rebuild the car after our practice crash, and it was just as good, maybe better, than the primary car. A top five in the LMGTE-Pro class is a great result from where we started the weekend. We miss Bret, but I know he shares in our excitement. The car doesn’t have a scratch on it from contact or offs. We kept it clean and on the track. I got back in at the end and had to push because I didn’t know where the Aston Martin was and it was our goal to finish in the top five or better. We had nothing but support from everyone in the paddock for Jeroen and myself to take on the race with just the two of us. It was a challenge, but I think I got over 1,100 miles of Le Mans laps under my belt this weekend. That will pay off when I come back next year.”