Porsche has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans after the leading No. 5 Toyota TS050 Hybrid came to a halt on the pit straight heading on to the final lap, allowing Neel Jani, Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas to take Porsche’s second consecutive victory in dramatic fashion.
It came in one of the most thrilling, race-long battles in recent history, which saw Toyota go head-to-head with Porsche, and lead for most of the race until Kazuki Nakajima lost power with just moments remaining.
Nakajima initially stopped just past the start/finish line but eventually rejoined to complete the final lap, crossing the line second.
However, as his 12-minute final lap was too slow, the No. 6 Toyota was not classified at the end, promoting the sister No. 6 car to second and the No. 8 Audi R18 to third at the end.
Despite the No. 5 Toyota of Nakajima and co-drivers Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Bueumi not relinquishing the lead for around four hours towards the end, the trio enjoyed a race-long fight with the No. 2 Porsche, as well as the No. 6 Toyota.
Jani led the early stages of the race, which started under the safety car due to heavy rain, before Mike Conway put the No. 6 Toyota out front, and held a slight advantage through the night.
However, by sunrise, the No. 5 Toyota was able to take the challenge to the No. 2 Porsche and the sister Toyota in what became an enthralling three-way fight for top honors.
Davidson made the important pass around the No. 2 Porsche of Jani with 4 hours and 4 minutes remaining and held a narrow gap to what appeared to be a clear victory for Toyota Gazoo Racing.
It would have been the first Le Mans wins for 2014 FIA World Endurance Champions Davidson and Buemi, as well as Nakajima, who would have been only the third Japanese driver to claim overall honors.
However, the devastating fortunes for the Toyota handed the win to Jani’s Porsche.
It marked Porsche’s record 18th overall Le Mans victory and the second for Frenchman Dumas, after his win in 2010 with Audi. Both Jani and Lieb scored their first Le Mans crown.
The No. 6 Toyota of Conway, Stephane Sarrazin and Kamui Kobayashi thus inherited second place, three laps behind the winners, after their bid for victory unraveled in the closing hours.
A spin by Kobayashi, while running third, led to a trip to the garage with less than three hours to go, and put them out of contention, although able to retain its position.
The No. 8 Audi of Oliver Jarvis, Lucas di Grassi and Loic Duval completed the podium in third, after having been unable to match the pace of the Toyotas and Porsche throughout the race.
It kept Audi’s record of at least one car scoring a podium finish since its Le Mans debut in 1999 intact.
Battling brake issues, the No. 8 Audi had to make a lengthy stop to replace its right-hand quarter suspension with four hours to go and finished a distant 9 laps behind the winners.
The No. 7 Audi R18 Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler-driven entry lost six laps early due to a turbo failure, which was followed by multiple trips to the garage. They finished fourth.
Defending World Champions Brendon Hartley, Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard were knocked out of contention in the 9th hour when the No. 1 Porsche replaced its water pump after battling temperature issues.
The car finished 13th overall and fifth in class, benefiting by attrition from all three of the LMP1 privateer entries.
The No. 12 Rebellion Racing Rebellion R-One AER of Nicolas Prost, Nick Heidfeld and Nelson Piquet Jr. claimed privateer honors, finishing 29th overall.
It came after battling an early race misfire, electronics issues, as well as two clutch changes over the course of the race.
Rebellion’s No. 13 entry, which claimed overall podium finishes in the opening two WEC races, ran as high as 5th before stopping on track in the 14th hour with issues.
It was classified second, with the No. 4 ByKolles Racing CLM P1/01 AER the only LMP1 retirement after suffering a fire on Sunday morning.
Jake Kilshaw and James Newbold contributed to this report.