Kiwi drivers take Le Mans 24-hour race

Australian driver Ryan Briscoe is backing his Ford to go the distance at the Le Mans 24 Hours race

Drivers train long and hard for endurance races like this one. Unfortunately for that program, what followed was a race that was equal parts unexpected and unpredictable, one that unfolded in three acts.

Porsche pilot Andre Lotterer was forced to abandon his vehicle on the circuit when it suffered a driveline failure, leaving the No.2 Porsche as the only hybrid auto with a realistic chance of finishing on the podium. Then, disaster struck for the No. 1 auto. They've spent their race clawing back from that, and have gotten all the way back up to third place over the course of around 16 hours.

But one by one the other LMP1 cars ran into problems that saw them fall back or out of contention. This caused a puncture that did massive damage to the rear of the vehicle, and it ultimately came to a stop just a couple of hundred of metres from the pit lane entry. Within a 20 minute period just after 1am, the Toyota's dream appeared to be in tatters with two vehicles out of the race, both with engine issues.

Running as normal, the No. 2 Porsche was roughly eight seconds a lap faster than the No. 38 ORECA 07. With Kobayashi behind the wheel his hybrid vehicle limped out of contention with clutch problems, leaving Porsche out in front.

But the hybrid went the same way as Toyota's, suffering a mechanical failure at exactly the wrong point on the track, leaving 10km to hobble back to the pits - a journey that a flagging auto wasn't able to complete.

The win also helps the pair in their World Endurance Championship - they collect 36 points for their victory - double the value of any normal round of the championship.

Taylor limped the auto home to take a third-place finish for himself and co-drivers Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia, behind the Aston and the UK-based No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT.

The excitement of this year's race wasn't limited to LMP1, with plenty of action elsewhere, starting with the hotly contested LMP2 class.

With Toyota out of the picture, the stage was set for Porsche to win by a massive margin. Hopes were high of a first Toyota win when the pole position-winning No. 7 TS050 Hybrid led for the opening 10 hours, but a clutch problem meant the auto had to retire.

The retirement of Neel Jani, Nick Tandy and Andre Lotterer opened the door for LMP2-specification #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA-Gibson 07 of Thomas Laurent to take a shock lead with just hours remaining of the race.

Later on, the 28 TDS Oreca veered into the path of the 82 GTE Pro Risi Competizione Ferrari, knocking the latter into the wall and a violent impact. But it was not to be, as the #2 Porsche vehicle took the chequered flag in first.

Aston Martin clinched a dramatic victory in the GTE Pro division, with the #97 machine of Jonathan Adam, Daniel Serra and Darren Turner snatching the lead on the final lap. He made light contact with the #63 Corvette and grabbed the lead, but he couldn't hold onto it and lost the position before the next corner. Then, on lap 338, Bernhard takes the lead.

In the end, it was consistency and reliability that allowed the No. 67 Ford GT of Andy Priaulx, Harry Tincknell, and Pipo Derani to podium at Le Mans. There's over two hours left. "I'm speechless. It's a insane race", said Lotterer after being sidelined by an oil pressure issue.

Even though our drivers drove believing in our cars, I can only say how sorry and how full of regret I am. Notably, four of the six LMP1 contenders were among those to officially retire.

The issues have served to highlight the demands placed on the Hybrid technology, which while successful at World Endurance Championship level where they compete over six hours, can not sustain relentless 24 hour action, according to Toyota President Toyoda.

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