Porsche was denied a win at the 2014 24 Hours of Mans today, when the leading number 20 919 LMP1 Hybrid retired in the last two hours of the race.
Mark Webber had just taken over the 919 from Timo Bernhard, who was thirty seconds in front of a charging number 2 Audi. TV cameras picked up Webber as the 919 slowed dramatically, stuck at 60 km/h. The former F1 star showed his class in remaining calm under the extreme pressure of the moment, running through a series of checks, but it was obvious this was a serious issue.
“Misfire, misfire, high oil temperature,” was Mark’s message over the radio as he headed for the pit lane. The car came home and was duly dismantled, but slumped shoulders a few minutes later said it all. Webber slapped his crew chief on the back and that was it: number 20 was out of the race. Partners Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley could only ponder what might have been.
Number 14 was still running, now in P4 in the LMP1 class. Marc Lieb was putting useful laps together when suddenly he reported gearbox problems. The car came back into pit lane and the engine cover was removed but again the lack of activity suggested something close to terminal. As mechanics polished the number 14, Lieb stood by with his helmet on, clearly hoping to get back on track for a final classification.
The 14 did get back out for photo opportunities with the chequered flag and appears on the final lap timings, but Eurosport claims it was not officially classified, so we wait to confirm that. Audi had the finish line all to themselves, with a 1-2 finish for cars 2 and 1 in that order. The number 92 Porsche 911 RSR of Fred Makowiecki took third place in the GTE-Pro category, behind Bruni’s Ferrari and Garcia’s Corvette.
Le Mans is disappointing for all fans of Porsche, but of course this is only round 3 of the 2014 World Endurance Championship. We now have almost three months to the 6 Hours of Austin at Circuit of the Americas on September 20th, so plenty of time to consider the data, develop the car further and go for the series title.
No one will hold this disappointment against the Porsche team. They gave the race everything, and 2014 was a great race for motorsport fans. Kudos to Weissach and on to the next one.