It was a long wait, but for the first time in 17 years Porsche have emerged victorious at the world's most grueling car race: the 24 hours of Le Mans. Much of the credit was due to a German Formula One driver.
Nico Hülkenberg and his fellow drivers Earl Bamber of New Zealand and Englishman Nick Tandy were all smiles as Porsche's number 19 took the checkered flag after a full day of driving. The German carmaker hadn't won the competition since 1998. It was Porsche's 17th Le Mans title.
"Thank you so much everybody, great effort over the last few months," Hülkenberg said over the team radio.
The emotion was written all over Tandy's face.
"These are tears of happiness. I'm lost for words," he said. "I hope it's the first of many. I grew up watching the race."
Porsche's number 17 - driven by former F1 driver Mark Webber of Australia, New Zealand's Brendon Hartley and Germany's Timo Bernhard - was second, completing a 1-2 finish for the German carmaker.
The Porsches had exchanged the lead early on with carmaker Audi, but Audi suffered a series of minor techincal problems, and its number 7 car had to settle for third place. The result ends a five-year winning streak for Audi, which had dominated the event in recent years, claiming 13 of the previous 15 titles.
"We had a problem with our bonnets, which never happened to us before," Audi director Wolfgang Ullrich said. "It's something we'll have to study and rectify back home. It's the end of a winning run for Audi, but we'll be back next year."
The top three cars completed a total of 395 laps of the roughly 13.6 kilometer (8.45 mile) circuit for a total distance of 5383.5 kilometers. More than 200,000 spectators turned out to watch the race.
jc/al (AP, Reuters)