This year’s Le Mans 24 hour race was full of surprise results, epic crashes, pit lane madness and more than a few raging infernos. Recombu was on hand to watch it all unfold. These were our favourite bits:
Porsche upset Audi
Most felt Audi had it in the bag. Porsche had, after all, just returned in 2014 after a 16-year absence and last tasted victory in 1998. What’s more, they brough a relatively inexperienced driver roster of active Formula One driver Nico Hulkenberg, England’s Nick Tandy and New Zealand’s Earl Bamber. Yet Hulkenberg took the team to victory with 395 laps, making him the first driver still in F1 to have won since Johnny Herbert in 1991.
Nissan finished the race
Nissan was never really going to win on its debut, but the 2015 Le Mans underdog needed valuable experience to ensure its hybrid GT-R LM is competitive next year. It was looking like two out of its three cars were set to finish, but various mechanical failures meant only number 22 made it over the line, as its remaining partner retired an hour before the end. Perhaps not quite what Nissan had in mind, but that’s a lot of valuable data it can now mull over in preparation for next year, and with Toyota also striving for excellence, next year could be even more closely fought.
We love a good crash – so long as the drivers walk away unhurt – and Le Mans 2015 sure had its fix. We were, in fact, at the chicane before the Mulsanne straight when the driveshaft of the number 92 Porsche failed, causing it to spin off the track and into an LMP2 car. It was a big shunt and one that saw the LMP2 machine burst into flames. Another incident saw two Porsches suffer an indentical crash at Mulsanne involving gravel and the wall, but both cars survived and kept going. Worst of all, the number 96 Aston Martin of Roald Goethe smashed into a wall at the Porsche curves, resulting in a precautionary medical centre trip.
The rain gods were kind
There was a spot of rain on the Friday, leading to concerns the circuit was going to become more dangerous than usual, but the reality was one of the dryest Le Mans races in a while. Even the grey clouds above on Friday seemed content raining on nearby villages and not the track, which meant the race could go on at full speed. This was at the expense of Nissan, which said its front-wheel drive car would be at an advantage on wet tarmac.
When’s a door not a door?
When it’s ajar, of course. That was exactly the problem was for the number 21 Nissan LMP1 car, which saw a door burst open during racing after it wasn’t latched properly. The driver was never going to fall out, owing to how difficult it is to get into the car unless you’re a midget, but it was one of the more light-hearted moments for Nissan’s Le Mans opening.
Audi fixed a crashed car in four minutes
The number 8 Audi of Loic Duval was caught out by slower moving traffic as cars were slowing down for a yellow flag, causing a smash into the barrier. That’s enough to end a race for most, but Audi was able to repair the badly damaged front and rear ends as well as slap on some new tyres, refuel the R18 e-tron quattro and put Di Grassi at the wheel – in just four minutes and 12 seconds. If only our local mechanic was as enthusiastic and efficient.
Your Ferrari is on fire
Things went from hot to boiling in the Ferrari garage as not one but two GTE AM 458 Italias caught fire while being refuelled. Such was the intensity of the inferno, the leg of a mechanic caught alight and he didn’t even notice straight away. Luckily extinguishers came to the rescue and the car and team were unscathed, except for perhaps a bit of pride.
It is easy to forget Le Mans has something most other motorsport races lack; the perils of racing at night. Driver fatigue, reduced visibility, cold tires, morning dew on the track as the sun rises in the morning – this is a race like no other. Le Mans 2015 showed the world it still is one of most dangerous and exciting events on the planet and one that keeps being dangerous from start to finish.
Pit man road kill
It was a lucky escape for a Corvette pit crew member as he was almost bulldozed by the number 1 Toyota, which was just leaving the pit lane. A cursory glance around to see who was watching suggests a bit of embarassment on the refuelling guy’s part.