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Porsche ends Audi's Le Mans winnng run

2015-06-14 15:53

WEBBER WELL ON WAY: Australia's Mark Webber and his Porsche 919 ahead of Swiss Marcel Fassler's Audi R18-E-Tron during the 83rd Le Mans 24 Hours on June 14, 2015. 56 cars and 168 drivers started. Image: AFP / Jean-Francois Monier

ALAN BALDWIN

  • 83rd time for famous race
  • F1 driver Hulkenberg rookie winner
  • Webber crew finish second

LE MANS, France - Porsche ended Audi's winning run at the Le Mans 24 Hours races on Sunday with a 1-2 finish and Formula 1 driver Nico Hulkenberg triumphant at his first attempt.

The German, driving the No.19 works Porsche he shared with New Zealand's Earl Bamber and Briton Nick Tandy, took the chequered flag for the brand’s first win at the Sarthe circuit since 1998.

HULK: 'I'M SPEECHLESS'

It was Porsche's 17th Le Mans triumph and it extended the automaker’s own record.

The No.17 Porsche of Australian Mark Webber, New Zealand's Brendon Hartley and German Timo Bernhard was second.

Audi's defending champions Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Faessler completed the podium places in the 83rd edition of the endurance race.

"I'm speechless right now," Hulkenberg, 27, said before lifting the heavy trophy with the help of his team mates. "It's amazing to come here, first attempt. Super happy... we wrote history today.”

He’s the first active F1 driver to win since Britain's Johnny Herbert in 1991.

"We couldn't expect such a thing," said the German, who arrived in Le Mans straight from the Canadian F1 GP the previous weekend and will be heading to Austria for next weekend's race after a few days off.

'I'D BE HAPPY FOR LIFE'

The winning trio was the least-experienced of the three Porsche works crews, with Hulkenberg completely unfamiliar with Le Mans until testing two weeks earlier. Tandy, the only one of the three with Le Mans experience, became the 30th British winner of the event.

"I couldn't think of two guys I'd rather share the car with," said the Englishman. "I could retire from racing tomorrow and look back on today and I’m sure I would be happy for the rest of my life."

Bamber was only the third New Zealander since F1 drivers Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon in 1966 to win Le Mans. Audi had won 13 of the last 15 race but Porsche, which returned with a full factory effort a year earlier, had looked dangerous from the moment they swept the top three grid places in qualifying.

There had been little to separate the two VW stablemates going into the night but things started to unwind for Audi after daybreak on the Sunday. Fassler had to pit when a large part of his car’s bodywork flew off without warning; that cost him seven minutes for repairs.

ONE TRACK, THREE PACE CARS

The Nos.9 and 8 Audis also had mechanical problems.

Webber was leading at quarter-distance but fell back when Hartley collected a one-minute 'stop/go' penalty for overtaking through a slow zone imposed around the Mulsanne corner during the third pace-car interlude.

The pace cars came out for a fourth time around the 17-hour mark when an Aston Martin crashed into a section of barrier.

The safety cars, three of them to cope with the long Le Mans lap, made their first appearance after the first hour when a three-car collision dumped oil on the track through the first chicane.

KRISTENSEN SET THEM OFF

There was a much longer pace-car period at the end of the third hour, when Frenchman Loic Duval spun and hit a barrier in the No.8 Audi at the Indianapolis corner.

Denmark's retired nine-times winner Tom Kristensen had waved the 83rd edition of the race away in bright sunshine on Saturday, watched by a crowd of around 250 000 enjoying a festival atmosphere.


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