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Porsche survives war of attrition to win 24 Hours of Le Mans

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With what looked like its race over, Porsche Team’s No. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid lost over an hour early on in the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans with a front axle issue and an MGU change.

This is why you never give up in a 24-hour race, though.

As retirements hit the two contending Toyota TS050 Hybrids, and then the sister No. 1 Porsche with just three hours to go despite having a 13-lap lead, the remaining Porsche pushed on.

The No. 2 Porsche persisted, pressed on, and then hunted down the No. 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07 Gibson LMP2 car to catch and pass the then-overall leader to take the lead with just over an hour remaining.

The trio of Timo Bernhard, Earl Bamber and Brendon Hartley have captured the overall victory in this year’s June endurance classic in the No. 2 car. It’s Bernhard and Bamber’s second Le Mans overall wins, Hartley’s first, and the 19th overall for Porsche.

A banner day for Jackie Chan DC Racing, however, ended with that No. 38 car taking the LMP2 class win in second overall, with the trio of Ho-Pin Tung, Oliver Jarvis and Thomas Laurent.

The No. 13 Vaillante Rebellion Oreca was second (Nelson Piquet Jr., Mathias Beche, David Heinemeier Hansson) with the second Jackie Chan DC Racing car, the No. 37 entry of David Cheng, Tristan Gommendy and Alex Brundle, third in class.

The abnormal day for the LMP1 contenders saw the ByKolles car fall out early, the No. 7 Toyota have clutch issues, the No. 9 Toyota retire a bit later with accident damage, and then the No. 1 Porsche have its loss of oil pressure.

Despite losing time in the garage the No. 8 Toyota rallied to the finish, second in LMP1 and ninth overall, but nine laps back.

In the LMP2 field, reliability was surprisingly barely an issue for the new cars. That meant a strong finish per car was earned on merit as 21 of the 25 starters saw the checkered flag.

Beyond the podium finishers, Signatech Alpine lost out late after Andre Negrao ran wide at Arnage corner, costing a potential podium for the No. 35 Alpine A470 car he shared with Nelson Panciatici and Pierre Ragues. That car ended what was still a respectable fourth in class, fifth overall.

United Autosports was best of those without the Oreca chassis, with the No. 32 Ligier JS P217 of Filipe Albuquerque, Will Owen and Hugo de Sadeeler fifth in class, sixth overall. It capped off a great debut weekend in the 24-hour race for the Richard Dean and Zak Brown-led team, having also captured one of the LMP3 Road to Le Mans race wins earlier in the week with Sean Rayhall and John Falb.

UNOFFICIAL RESULTS
UNOFFICIAL RESULTS BY CLASS

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.