Porsche - Le Mans 24 Hours

Le Mans 24 Hours

The world’s toughest automobile race

For Porsche fans all over the world, it was high time that Porsche returned to Le Mans last year with a highly competitive sports prototype – and for Wolfgang Hatz, as well. “Porsche is part of Le Mans, and Le Mans is part of Porsche. They fit together,” states the R&D Board Member who sees this engagement as significantly more than just an attempt to notch up the overall victory at the most prestigious race in the world. “No one makes these kinds of investments because of nostalgia; they have to pay off in the future. As far as I can remember, there was never a regulation that gave the engineers so much freedom and requires so much innovation. The obligation towards producing a hybrid and the efficiency formula represent revolutionary challenges. I am proud that our engineers ventured the furthest of all competitors. Ultimately, Porsche customers will benefit from this.”

Teamwork is the key to success

What makes this prestigious, 1923-inaugurated long distance classic in the Sarthe so unique is the 13.629 kilometre “Circuit des 24 Heures”, one of the oldest and fastest race tracks in the world. Almost 75 percent of a lap is driven at full throttle. The circuit puts particular stresses on man and machine, not only because of the top speeds exceeding 300 km/h that are reached on the 5 kilometre Mulsanne straight despite two chicanes. The combination of permanent race track passages and country roads also poses very tough challenges.

To win at Le Mans you need not only a quick and reliable car but also the very best pilots. And, of course, a highly experienced pit crew. Teamwork in front and behind the pit wall is the key to success.

Impressive winning streak

Porsche’s impressive success story at Le Mans began in 1970, with Hans Hermann and Richard Attwood clinching the first overall victory with a 917 short-tail. With four wins each, Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell are the most successful Porsche pilots in Le Mans. Porsche also holds the pole-setting qualifying track record set by Jackie Oliver in 1971: With the Porsche 917 long-tail Coupé, he lapped the then 13.469 km circuit in 3:13.9 minutes – that’s an average speed of 250.069 kph.

Porsche also enjoyed success at the world’s most famous endurance race with the RS Spyder LMP2 sports prototype. Fielded by Porsche customer teams, the nimble carbon-fibre racer clinched a double class victory at its Le Mans debut in 2008. The sports prototype from Weissach won again in 2009, and also took home the Michelin Green X Challenge environmental award thanks to its outstanding overall efficiency.

Notching up two more class victories in 2013, Porsche wrote another chapter in the history of the world’s most famous endurance race. The new 911 RSR, based on the seventh generation of the iconic 911 sports car, celebrated victory in the GTE-Pro class, with Romain Dumas, Marc Lieb and Richard Lietz at the wheel. In the second 911 RSR, their works driver colleagues Joerg Bergmeister, Timo Bernhard and Patrick Pilet made the double victory perfect for Porsche. The customer team IMSA Performance Matmut won the GTE-Am class, with drivers Raymond Narac, Christophe Bourret and Jean-Karl Vernay. “Le Mans is magic”

Two overall winners of the Le Mans 24 Hours compete for Porsche in the 919 Hybrid at the 83rd running of the eternally young classic: Romain Dumas and Timo Bernhard. As Porsche works drivers, they won the 2010 race for Audi and will now join forces with a new teammate to chase the overall victory for Porsche.

“Le Mans is the most famous and toughest race in the world, and it is even more special for me as a Frenchman,” says Romain Dumas. “I have been driving here since 2001, and so many people have been anticipating Porsche’s return. My favourite passage is the Porsche corners. Not because of their name, but because they are so quick and difficult. When you race down the Mulsanne straight at 330 km/h at night – all by yourself in your own world - you live a dream.” Timo Bernhard adds: “In my first start for Porsche in 2002, Le Mans was stunning. It’s the most fascinating race in the world, pure fascination. At some point on this long circuit you find a very special rhythm. Especially at night when everything gets even faster, and when it might drizzle or rain. It is indescribable; there is a certain magic to it.”

Porsche overall wins in Le Mans

Year Winner Vehicle
1970 Attwood/Herrmann Porsche 917 K
1971 Marko/van Lennep Porsche 917 K
1976 Ickx/van Lennep Porsche 936
1977 Barth/Haywood/Ickx Porsche 936 77
1979 Ludwig/Whittington/Whittington Porsche 935 K 3
1981 Ickx/Bell Porsche 936 81
1982 Ickx/Bell Porsche 956 C
1983 Holbert/Haywood/Schuppan Porsche 956 C
1984 Pescarolo/Ludwig Porsche 956 C
1985 Ludwig/Barilla/Winter Porsche 956 C
1986 Stuck/Bell/Holbert Porsche 956 C
1987 Stuck/Bell/Holbert Porsche 956 C
1994 Dalmas/Haywood/Baldi Dauer-Porsche 962 LM
1996 Reuter/Jones/Wurz Joest TWR-Porsche WSC
1997 Alboreto/Johansson/Kristensen Joest TWR-Porsche WSC
1998 Aiello/Ortelli/McNish Porsche 911 GT1
2015 Bamber/Hülkenberg/Tandy Porsche 919 Hybrid