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Dramatic end to Le Mans 24 Hours gives Porsche victory

Porsche has won its eighteenth Le Mans 24 Hours as a last minute engine failure for challenger Toyota changed the outcome of the race. It was the most dramatic ending since 1923.

With just three minutes to go, Toyota No. 5 held a lead of half a minute over the Porsche No. 2 team.

Japanese driver Kazuki Nakajima had been on course to win Toyota's first Le Mans victory when he reported a problem and the car lost power and slowed on the pit straight with five minutes left.

Neel Jani overtook in his Porsche to give his team their eighteenth win in the world's oldest endurance sports car race.

Switzerland's Neel Jani, Frenchman Roland Dumas and Germany's Marc Lieb shared the victory as Jani took the Porsche 919 Hybrid over the finish line. Last year, Porsche won to end Audi's five-race winning run and clinch a record 17th victory, so this year's win brought their 18th title in the event, which was first held in 1923.

Nakajima said over the radio as he crossed the line "I'm ready to cry, guys." While Nakajima crossed the line second, his final lap of nearly 12 minutes was too slow to be classified. That meant that the Toyota No. 6 car, driven by Frenchman Stephane Sarrazin, came in second.

Bad weather weekend

Officially started by US actor Brad Pitt, the race began in heavy rain behind a safety car which stayed on the track for 53 minutes. The Toyota No. 6 team took control of the race, going ahead of the Porsche team which had started on pole position.

Porsche lost more ground in the seventh round of pit stops, allowing Kamui Kobayashi to retake the lead. As the race reached its 10-hour mark, Toyota kept the advantage as both the Audi and Porsche teams lost ground.

With five hours left, Toyota No. 5 led from Toyota No. 6, with the Porsche in third.

Porsche began to close on the Toyotas, and the lead changed hands as the teams called their drivers in for pit stops. Going into the final hour, Porsche was over a minute off the lead, but the Toyota engine failure gave the German team the win.

Two Audis came in third and fourth, with teams using Nissan engines filling the next eight places.

More than 263,500 spectators attended the 84th edition of the event. Since 2012, the 24 Hours of Le Mans has been a part of the FIA World Endurance Championship.

ss/jm (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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