Nissan wins at Le Mans!*
*But not overall.
I wasn't going to post anything today since I was expecting to be soaking up the whole spectacle of Le Mans but since the race ended this morning I thought I'd post a quick summary. Needless to say, if you haven't been following the event yourself, SPOILERS LIE AHEAD!
|Image credit: Nissan|
This first year back to Le Mans was always going to be difficult for Nissan with not only the learning curve of returning to the world's premiere endurance race after a long absence but also the added complexity of developing a radical new concept for a race car. Adversity was exactly what they encountered with clutch trouble sidelining the #23 car from the very start. The #21 car was in and out of the pits for various issues ranging from the gearbox to a door that popped open on the Mulsanne straight. Eventually, it was the first of the three cars to retire. The other two cars would also spend a lot of time in the garage but Nissan valiantly kept them going and the #23 at least made it all the way to the 23rd hour before succumbing like its sister before it. On the bright side, the #22 car did make it all the way to the end despite all the mechanical issues and being over a hundred fifty laps down from the winner.
The GT-R LM Nismo's were consistently well off the pace of the frontrunners but this year they weren't even running their hybrid system properly and suffered due to not having the extra power as well as the added acceleration and grip afforded by the originally planned electric RWD boost. They basically ran on just the 500ish hp V6 engine driving the front wheels without the benefit of the hybrid systems that gave the other LMP1 teams over a thousand horsepower of peak output. A lack of regenerative braking also played havoc with slowing the cars down. Overall, very much a learning year for Nissan but kudos for the determined effort despite the lack of development time. Next year will be very interesting if Nissan can get their full AWD hybrid system working and the aero setup optimized.
Since Nissan obviously didn't win overall, someone else had to take the honors and this year it was the Porsche team in a convincing 1-2 for their 19 and 17 cars. Audi's #7 car ended up in third while the Toyotas were surprisingly a non-factor for the win pretty much the whole race. Congratulations to Porsche and their winning driver team of Earl Bamber, Nico Hulkenberg, and Nick Tandy for a magnificent drive!
The LMP1 results may have been disheartening for Nissan but solace can be had in their continued dominance of LMP2. The #47 KCMG Oreca-Nissan led the class for almost the entire race and was never seriously challenged for the win except in the early going. Nissan-powered cars filled the top spots of LMP2 with the nearest alternate powerplant way down in seventh. An interesting bit of trivia is that roughly a third of this year's Le Man's grid had Nissan power.
In the GT classes, Corvette Racing did America proud by winning GTE-Pro – fitting for Flag Day when the Stars and Stripes are everywhere. Even more impressive is the fact that they've now won the Triple Crown of endurance racing this year, having scored victory at Daytona and Sebring earlier. Unfortunately the #63 car that had got those victories was unable to complete the hat trick after a stuck throttle put Jan Magnussen hard into the wall during a pre-qualifying test session. Fortunately he was unhurt but the car was unsalvageable. The sister #64 car fought hard and claimed the win in their stead however.
In GTE-Am Aston Martin looked set to win in the closing hours. Unfortunately a late shunt by the leading car within the final sixty minutes scuppered their bid and the #72 SMP Ferrari went on to the class victory. Of note, TV star Patrick Dempsey got second place in the class together with fellow American Patrick Long.
Overall, another great installment of Le Mans despite the troubles Nissan faced. Here's looking forward to next year!