Mark Webber finished the 83rd-running of the world famous Le Mans 24-Hours in second position at the weekend, writes James Beckett.
Driving for the Porsche factory team, Webber and his team-mates, Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley, guided the number 17 Porsche 919-Hybrid to second at the fall of the chequered flag, which was the culmination of 24 hours of high speed driving around the Circuit de la Sarthe.
The track, made up from sections of permanent race track and closed public roads, again provided a thrilling encounter that was action-packed from start to finish.
Webber’s car started the race from second and completed 394 laps, but for the drivers of car 17, it finished agonisingly one lap short of the sister number 19 Porsche driven by Nick Tandy, Earl Bamber and Force India F1 racer Nico Hulkenberg.
It was Porsche’s 17th victory in the race and their first for 17 years. It’s also only the third time since 2000 that an Audi car had not won the race.
Webber said afterwards: “This was a great weekend for the Porsche team. The number 18 car claimed pole position for the race and we had a one-two finish. It would have been great for a podium lock-out, but this year it wasn’t possible.
“Le Mans is such an amazing event. Nearly 300,000 people come to watch the race, and the track is packed with spectators from very early in the morning and all through the event.
“This has to be one of the world’s greatest sporting events. There are not many things that come this close and give you the goosebumps.”
Webber’s car did lead the Le Mans 24-Hour Race at times. From the start, the red and white car took an early lead, and again held the top spot during Saturday evening. As the race progressed and settled into a pattern, the number 19 Porsche was able to take over at the head of the field - and it was a lead it was not to lose.
“It was a great battle this year for victory,” Webber explained. “Porsche, Audi and Toyota all had a car that was capable of winning.
“We thought that Audi may have a better race pace, especially through the evening and into the night, but when their challenge should have been stronger to us it actually went away. This gave us a chance to keep pushing and fight until the chequered flag.
“This is one race in a long season, and our focus for the year has to be winning the World Endurance Championship. Of course we wanted to win Le Mans, but finishing on the podium in second was a good result and we now look to the next race in Germany during August, and we start to plan our return to Le Mans for 2016.”