The Le Mans winner’s trophy for the 24 Hours of Le Mans has found a new home at the Porsche Museum. After three overall victories in a row in the toughest long-distance race in the world, Porsche has now earned the right to keep the challenge trophy forever. The Le Mans winners and Porsche 919 Hybrid works drivers Timo Bernhard (2017), Neel Jani (2016) and Nick Tandy (2015), and the Vice President LMP, Fritz Enzinger, officially entrusted the statue, which weighs almost 50kg, to the Porsche Museum on 15 December 2017. It was received by Oliver Blume, Chairman of the Executive Board of Porsche AG, and can now be viewed as part of the permanent exhibition.
Over the last four years, the Porsche LMP team has made motorsport history in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). Since its debut in the 6 Hours of Silverstone in April 2014, the Porsche 919 Hybrid has managed to come out on top in 17 of the 34 WEC races in which it has competed. That includes seven one-two finishes for the Class 1 prototype, which also started in pole position 20 times as the fastest car in qualifying, and drove the fastest lap in 13 races.
Even more importantly, the 919 Hybrid saw Porsche claim victory in both the overall World Championships and in the season’s highlight, the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans, in each of 2015, 2016 and 2017. In 2015, Formula 1 driver Nico Hülkenberg gave the vehicle a perfect debut in the classic long-distance race. After a strong performance during the night alongside Earl Bamber and Nick Tandy, Hülkenberg was the first to drive the 919 Hybrid to victory at the Circuit des 24 Heures. One year later, Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb put so much pressure on their leading rival in a thrilling pursuit that the rival car failed just minutes before the end of the race. And in June this year, after an early setback, Earl Bamber, Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley secured Porsche its 19th overall victory in Le Mans with a fantastic comeback.
Although 2016 was the last year for the Audi team at Le Mans, it was really only the Porsche and Toyota teams who were in the hunt for victory that year. While the Toyota seemed to have the edge on the Porsche, a last-minute failure on the penultimate lap allowed the Porsche through to victory, proving that old adage, that to finish first, you first have to finish. This might sound harsh on the Toyota team, but Porsche too has had its fair share of near misses over the years. In 2017, it was a case of who lasted the distance, as somehow high-tech glitches seemed to take their toll right across the LMP1 class. But in the end, it was a Porsche 919 Hybrid that once again took the overall honours.
The active WEC career of the Porsche 919 Hybrid came to an end with the 6 Hours of Bahrain in November. In the coming year, it will complete an extensive farewell tour comprising numerous individual events. In the autumn of 2018, the 919 will make its final journey – to the Porsche Museum.
The rules allow that where a manufacturer wins the Le Mans 24 Hour trophy in three consecutive years, that manufacturer is entitled to keep the trophy permanently. Other manufacturers who, over the years, have claimed this accolade include Bentley, Alfa Romeo, Jaguar, Ferrari, Ford, Audi and Porsche (on a number of occasions). With nineteen Le Mans victories, Porsche is indeed the ultimate, long-distance king boasting the longest string of seven consecutive victories: 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986 and 1987.
This final step in the 919’s career for 2017, will allow the many visitors who journey to the Porsche Museum to view this historic trophy for themselves.
Written by: Glen Smale
Images by: Virtual Motorpix/Glen Smale & John Mountney, and Porsche