KIWI DUO WINS LE MANS

Motor Equipment News - - FRONT PAGE - Story by Ross MacKay. Pho­tos by Porsche.

Kiwi Porsche pair Bren­don Hart­ley and Earl Bam­ber and fel­low works driver Timo Bern­hard were part of a dra­matic, last-minute fight­back which saw the, win this year’s Le Mans 24 Hour race for Porsche.

Just two hours af­ter the start of the 85th run­ning of the 24 hour French clas­sic on the Cir­cuit de la Sarthe west of Paris over the June 17/18 week­end the race looked like it was over for the trio in the #2 Porsche 919 Hy­brid of the trio.

The car lost front axle drive which took an hour and five min­utes to re­pair, leav­ing Hart­ley, Bam­ber and Bern­hard 18 laps be­hind the lead­ing car when they even­tu­ally re­joined.

Bit by bit, how­ever, they un­lapped them­selves and as ev­ery other LMP1 class car also had prob­lems the trio sliced through the field from 56th po­si­tion to first to give Porsche its 19th over­all vic­tory – and third in a row – in the great race.

It was a sec­ond Le Mans 24 Hour win for both Earl Bam­ber (his first was in 2015) and Timo Bern­hard (2010) but the first for for­mer WEC world cham­pion team mem­ber Bren­don Hart­ley.

Hart­ley set up the un­likely vic­tory with a storm­ing fi­nal stint, the fo­cus of the fac­tory team trans­fer­ring to the #2 car af­ter the # 1 Porsche driven by Neel Jani, An­dré Lot­terer and Nick Tandy stopped on track with low oil pres­sure soon af­ter 11am af­ter lead­ing the race for more than ten hours.

Bern­hard re-en­tered the race in fourth place and soon af­ter was back on the same lap as the lead­ing car, the LMP2 class DC Rac­ing Oreca of Oliver Jarvis, Ho-Pin Tung and Thomas Lau­rent.

Cir­cu­lat­ing the 13.629km cir­cuit at least 13 sec­onds a lap quicker than the LMP2 class car Bern­hard took the lead on lap 347 with just over an hour of the race to go.

As Fritz Enzinger, Vice Pres­i­dent LMP1, said af­ter the race, “Some­times it is not the fastest car but the best team per­for­mance that makes the dif­fer­ence.”

Mean­while, hav­ing now won one of the world’s most fa­mous races not once but twice, Wan­ganui’s Earl Bam­ber, 26, was still pinch­ing him­self the day af­ter.

“I can’t be­lieve we man­aged to pull this one off hav­ing been at the back of the field af­ter an hour in the pit box so this vic­tory is as much down to the guys in the pits as us.

“Le Mans is cer­tainly one crazy race,” agreed Palmer­ston North-born 27-year-old Bren­don Hart­ley. “The me­chan­ics worked in­cred­i­bly hard on Satur­day evening to get our car re­paired in su­per­fast time and since that mo­ment Timo, Earl and my­self, to­gether with our en­gi­neers, pushed 100 per­cent ev­ery sec­ond, des­per­ately hop­ing that our ef­forts would some­how pay off. And they did!”

LMP1 ri­val Toy­ota were quick­est in qual­i­fy­ing but like Porsche only man­aged to get one car to the fin­ish line. That was the TS050 of WEC series points lead­ers Kazuki Naka­jima, Se­bastien Buemi and An­thony David­son who were clas­si­fied ninth, nine laps down on the win­ning Porsche af­ter los­ing two hours in the pits re­solv­ing front mo­tor and bat­tery is­sues.

The Ford GT of Kiwi Scott Dixon, Aussie Ryan Briscoe and Brit Richard West­brook ended up 24th, the As­ton-Martin Van­tage of Marco Sorensen, Nicki Thiim and Kiwi Richie Stan­away 26th.

The win­ning Porsche mobbed by me­dia in pit lane.

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