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WATCH: 5 of the most memorable Le Mans moments

2017-06-16 19:00

Image: Porsche

Braam Peens

Paris - The 2017 Le Mans 24 Hour race is fast approaching and is one of the most highly-anticipated motorsport events this year.

Wheels24's Janine Van Der Post is attending the event in France.

Top moments

Ahead of the iconic race in France, Wheels24 columnist Braam Peens shares his top moments in the sport.

1991 

Two firsts: Mazda becomes – to date – the only Japanese manufacturer to take overall honours, and while using a non-piston-powered car. The quad-rotor 787B has become an icon for gamers, engine audiophiles and fashion police alike.



1999
A race that Mercedes will want to forget. A fresh-faced Mark Webber’s woefully unstable CLR did not flip at on the high-speed Mulsanne straight once, but twice – once in qualifying and again in the warm-up. After team mate Peter Dumbreck suffered the same fate in the race, the team called in the last of their quadruplet of cars to save what was left of their dignity – and its driver’s nerves. Adding insult to injury, arch-rivals BMW won the race.


2009
The period from 2007-2011 blessed audiences with some of the bitterest-fought duels between the diesel-powered Audis and Peugeots. The German squad, who had emerged victorious after 8 of their 10 previous outings at Le Mans, including the first two successive wins for a diesel car, ran out of luck in 2009, lost one car in an accident early in the race, while its sister unit suffered several technical issues to finish an uncharacteristically low third.

Even though the German steamroller was only temporarily halted, France erupted.


2011
A race that made the Fast & Furious franchise look drier than a late-night SABC TV infomercial for sheer incredulity. After the first Audi was eviscerated in the first hour following an epic accident, and another being destroyed at around midnight, a Peugeot victory seemed certain. The faster French cars could complete one lap more per tank than the last surviving Audi, but were later found able to only complete three instead of four stints per set of tyres.

A nail-biting strategic cat and mouse game played out in the final hours, with the sole R18’s win engineered by endurance racing’s now most-famous female, Leena Gade, immortalised in Truth in 24 II. Their 13-second winning margin remains the fourth-ever closest finish in the race’s history.



2016
Defeat was stuffed into the jaws of victory as the trouble-free Toyota team dominated the race from early on. Could this finally be their turn, they wondered, after so many years of trying? The hurt was so tangible, one could taste it.  


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