Despite flirting with an “impossible” overall victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans on Sunday, the Jackie Chan DC Racing team was left overjoyed with its charge to second in the final classification and a double podium finish in the LMP2 class.
The No. 38 Oreca 07 Gibson shared by Oliver Jarvis, Ho-Pin Tung and Thomas Laurent enjoyed a near-perfect race to rise to the top of the LMP2 order as day broke on Sunday, pulling clear of the rival Vaillante Rebellion Racing Orecas.
A race of attrition for the LMP1 class had allowed the No. 38 Oreca to move into second overall behind the No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid, which enjoyed a lead of 13 laps.
Porsche hit trouble in the 21st hour when a loss of oil pressure forced Andre Lotterer to park up at the side of the track and retire from the race, allowing DC Racing to take P1 and become the first LMP2 team to lead the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
While the No. 2 Porsche was ultimately able to fight back from being 18 laps down on the lead driver after an early visit to the garage to claim the German marque’s 19th overall victory, DC Racing finished one lap down in second place, marking a famous result for the Chinese-backed team.
“For us, this weekend, it’s really been a dream come true,” Jarvis said.
“There was a moment when we started to dream that it could be more than just the LMP2 win, that it really could be the overall victory. But it wasn’t to be.
“Congrats to Porsche, they did a stunning job. We’ve just got to be happy with what we achieved today.”
At just 19 years old, Laurent turned in one of the stand-out displays of the race, being the driver to assume the lead following Porsche’s demise.
“It was a really strange feeling. I couldn’t expect that before this weekend I would be the leader during the race, during my stints,” Laurent told Sportscar365.
“So it was just an incredible feeling. I really enjoyed it. We finished second overall, but it’s still an LMP1, so it’s OK.
“LMP1 is normally really fast, except this year. Maybe 50 percent of the cars finished all the race. It was strange for the Toyota but it’s like that, and also the Porsche.”
“I think if anyone would have told us that before the weekend, I would told them they were crazy,” Tung added when speaking to Sportscar365.
“There’s been a lot of talk about the chances of a P2 ending up on the overall podium, but to actually physically lead the race, I don’t think it’s something anyone could have imagined.”
Tung said that DC Racing did not plan to put up a fight to the oncoming No. 2 Porsche in the closing stages, instead prioritizing class victory in LMP2.
“Before I went in the car for my last three stints, I spoke with Sam Hignett and Greg Wheeler, our engineer and team manager, and basically what the plan of attack would be, whether to push to stay ahead or just go for the LMP2 win,” Tung said.
“For us the LMP2 win is extremely important. Not just to win here at Le Mans, it’s so special, but also for the World Endurance Championship, it’s a very important race.
“It’s something we definitely did not want to risk, because especially from our own calculations, the Porsche would overtake us two stints before the end already, which is actually what happened.”
For Jota Sport team director Sam Hignett, getting a taste of a famous result did leave a twinge of disappointment, but he was nevertheless delighted with their performance.
It marked the British-based squad’s second Le Mans class win, after taking top LMP2 honors in 2014.
“It could have been legendary, we just needed a little bit more luck. But we had a great team, great preparation, and a fair dose of luck that you need here that gave us the result,” Hignett said.
“I’m sure we will wake up a little bit sore in the morning that we didn’t do the impossible given it was on the table, but you can’t have everything, can you?
“We’re all thrilled to have achieved what we have achieved. I’m really pleased. It’s nice to be at the top of our game in the new generation of LMP2.”
John Dagys and James Newbold contributed to this report.