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TANDY: Le Mans Debrief

Nick Tandy files his post-Le Mans column for Sportscar365…

Photo: Porsche

What a strange Le Mans 24 Hours. There was so much preparation for the manufacturers beating each other, and in the end it boiled down to who could actually beat the race, and who could get the car to the finish.

From my point of view, we were in the fight in the first ten hours or so, and we had good pace.

We expected to be quicker on race pace than we were against Toyota in qualifying and so it proved to be.

There was a point during my first stint that we caught and passed the No. 8 car, we were more or less holding station with the No. 7, so the race between us all seemed on.

At that point it looked like it could be a really tough race and everyone would have to go flat-out to win.

But when I got back in for my next stint after midnight, that’s when it all started kicking off. We pitted under the safety car early, to change the nose, because we thought we had some damage underneath the car.

I got back in and as soon as it went green, I got a call on the radio saying “Watch out, slow car on the exit of Tertre Rouge.”

I was looking out for that and then I saw it was car No. 7, the car that we were fighting for the lead. From our point of view, it was a point in the race where we suddenly thought we had a strong chance of winning this.

Twenty minutes later, I got another call saying “Watch out for debris into Mulsanne, slow car exit Arnage.”

I drove out of Arnage and there was the No. 9 Toyota limping along.

It was within about an hour of us coming in to replace some minor damage, and take advantage of a safety car situation, we had gone from being about one minute behind to being in a race of our own.

That’s when the race completely changed for us. That was it, we backed off, we started looking after the car, and just drove around for ten hours in the lead.

But then of course it all changed again. We had a huge lead over the next LMP1 car and we were backing our pace up by about five seconds each lap since 2 a.m.

We were doing everything possible to make sure we didn’t take any risk and could bring the car to the finish. It was in the bag, as long as we could make it to the finish.

There was no warning. There was no call from the pit to say we might potentially be getting a problem. It was just a freak failure that we’ve yet to diagnose.

Being so close to the start of the lap, we didn’t have enough energy left in the battery to get the car home to the pit, to investigate.

I was in the back of the garage in the drivers’ area with the physios and doctors, and I heard the call on the circuit commentary.

I heard “Porsche numero un” and my heart dropped. I rushed to the TV screen to see the car limping along and at that point I knew it was over.

One thing I can take away is that we never got so close that we were really expecting to win it. There was still too long in the race to go to really feel comfortable.

However, I now know what it feels like to be in a commanding position and have it taken away from you, just as Toyota did last year.

At least for us, we’ve all been there and have all won it before. I can’t imagine what it was like for the guys at Toyota last year.

Now I’ve got some idea of how they would have felt but I can only imagine it was so much more heartbreaking for them.

I feel terrible for my No. 1 car and my crew, but I also feel really sorry for Toyota, both last year and this.

They did a fantastic job this year, they did a great job in race week and they were getting along just fine in the race.

But this is Le Mans, and the difficulty of winning these races is what makes them so special when you actually finally do it.

So massive congratulations to Porsche once again and car No. 2. I’ll be back to try and beat the race again next year!

Nick Tandy (@NickTandyR) is the 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours winner and Porsche LMP1 factory driver, driving for the German manufacturer in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

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