Jackie Chan DC Racing executed a near-perfect race with its No. 38 Oreca 07 Gibson to clinch LMP2 class victory in the 85th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and even briefly flirt with overall victory before finishing second in the final classification.
Starting third in class, Oliver Jarvis made a rapid start in the Oreca to move into the lead through the first stint, only to drop back after a starter issue.
More ground was lost when Thomas Laurent suffered a brief stoppage on-track at Indianapolis before getting the car back going, after which point the trio that also featured Ho-Pin Tung stayed out of trouble, rising up the order through the night as the LMP1 field descended into meltdown.
A LMP2 car finishing on the podium seemed possible yet improbable heading into the race given the low turnout for the premier class, but with four of the five LMP1 hybrid runners hitting trouble by half-distance, it looked increasingly likely.
Repeated issues for the early LMP2 pace-setter Vaillante Rebellion Racing with its pairs of Orecas, No. 13 and No. 31, caused the Swiss team to lose its 1-2 position and fall a lap behind the No. 38 car with seven hours to go.
Running second overall, DC Racing became the first ever LMP2 team to lead the overall order at Le Mans in the 21st hour when Andre Lotterer was forced to park his No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid up at the side of the track, squandering a 13-lap advantage over the field.
The No. 38 car enjoyed an extended stint as the outright leader, with Laurent and Tung sharing the running at the sharp end of the field before the recovering No. 2 Porsche eroded the two-lap deficit that stood after Lotterer’s stoppage.
Timo Bernhard made an easy pass on Tung to take the lead heading into the final hour of the race, with the DC Racing pit wall informing its driver to be careful and ensure the car did not overheat.
A change of the rear end of the car was completed in the closing stages, with the two-lap buffer to Rebellion’s No. 13 car that was second in class giving the team plenty of breathing room.
With 24 hours in the book and having fully embraced spirit of the ‘Mighty 38’ previously made famous by Jota Sport, who remains heavily involved in the running of the team and has since passed on the nickname, Tung crossed the line to secure class victory for DC Racing and finish second overall, one lap down on the race winner.
The result marked the first class victory for a Chinese team at Le Mans, as well as maiden successes for Jarvis, Tung and Laurent, the latter standing on top of the LMP2 podium at just 19 years old in his race debut.
The overall podium was also notable for being the first since 1995 to feature entries from mixed classes, with LMP2 cars finishing second and third alongside the race winner from LMP1.
Finishing two laps down on the No. 38 Oreca, Rebellion clinched P2 in class and third overall with its No. 13 Oreca shared by Nelson Piquet Jr., Mathias Beche and David Heinemeier Hansson.
Capping off a remarkable day for DC Racing, the No. 37 Oreca managed to move into the top three in the final hour, giving Tristan Gommendy, David Cheng and Alex Brundle a class podium.
The trio benefitted from a late error made by Andre Negrao in the No. 35 Signatech Alpine Matmut Alpine A470 Gibson, running into the gravel and Mulsanne to throw away a chance at completing the LMP2 podium alongside Nelson Panciatici and Pierre Ragues.
Despite fears of Oreca chassis dominating proceedings in the race, United Autosports managed to take fifth in class with the No. 32 Ligier JS P217 Gibson, marking a solid Le Mans debut for the Anglo-American outfit.
RESULTS: 24H Le Mans