New Zealanders Brendon Hartley and Earl Bamber have paid tribute to Porsche’s mechanics for their role in scoring an unlikely comeback victory at the Le Mans 24 Hours
The #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid driven by Hartley, Bamber and Timo Bernhard fought back from dropping 10 laps on Saturday afternoon due to a front axle drive issue to record the manufacturer’s 19th outright triumph at the French endurance classic.
The trio benefited from a series of high-profile LMP1 retirements highlighted by Toyota’s demise having set the pace in the first half of the race.
As a result, the #1 Porsche of Andre Lotterer, Nick Tandy and Neel Jani emerged in the lead before an oil pressure problem forced the entry out of the encounter.
An impressive recovery drive from the #2 Porsche saw the trio overcome the race leading #38 Oreca-Gibson LMP2 with just over an hour remaining.
The result saw Hartley claim his maiden Le Mans 24 Hours success while Bamber secured his second after being part of Porsche’s 2015 victory.
The pair were stunned by the fightback which he credits to impressive work completed in the pits to return the car to the race.
“I can’t believe we’ve managed to pull this one off having been at the back of the field after an hour in the pit-box,” said Hartley.
“Both Brendon and Timo (Bernhard) have been part of the Porsche LMP programme from the beginning while this victory is as much down to the guys in the pits.
“Without their hard work we wouldn’t have got back racing again so this win is down to them.”
“Le Mans is one crazy race,” added Bamber.
“The mechanics worked incredibly hard on Saturday evening to get our car repaired in super fast time and since that moment Timo, Earl and myself, together with our engineers, have been pushing hard, 100 percent every second, and desperately hoped that our efforts would somehow pay off.”
Hartley and Bamber sit alongside the late Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon as the only New Zealanders to win the Le Mans 24 Hours.
MotorSport New Zealand CEO, Brian Budd praised the efforts shown by Hartley and Bamber on the world stage.
“Brendon Hartley and Earl Bamber’s win of the Le Mans 24 Hour Race was a fantastic effort and again highlights the fact that New Zealand continues to punch above its weight on the international motorsport stage,” said Budd.
“It’s also fantastic to see IndyCar superstar Scott Dixon, driving for Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA, and Aston Martin factory driver Richie Stanaway both finish this year’s Le Mans race in the top 10 of the GTE Pro category.
“To finish this race is an achievement that cannot be underrated.
“Across the Tasman, New Zealand competitors continue their dominance in the Australian V8 Supercar Championship with Fabian Coulthard leading by 10 points from Scott McLaughlin, and fellow Kiwi and defending Supercars champion Shane van Gisbergen in fourth.
“Everyone at MotorSport New Zealand and across the wider New Zealand motorsport fraternity are immensely proud of the continued successes and achievements of our competitors both at home and abroad.”