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Hartley and Bamber win Le Mans crown

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 6 days ago

Kiwis Brendon Hartley and Earl Bamber have miraculously fought back to win the famed Le Mans 24 Hour Race in France.

Porsche drivers Hartley, Bamber and German Timo Bernhard appeared to have no hope of winning after their car spent more than 90 minutes in the pits early in the race following mechanical problems.

They returned to the track and took advantage of a host of crashes and withdrawals from LMP1 class rivals, claiming the lead with just over an hour remaining.

Bernhard drove through the closing stages to take the chequered flag in one of the more remarkable results at the world's pre-eminent endurance car event.

"Le Mans is one crazy race," a tearful Hartley said.

"The mechanics worked incredibly hard on Saturday evening to get our car repaired in super fast time and since that moment Timo, Earl and myself, together with our engineers, have been pushing hard, 100 per cent every second, and desperately hoped that our efforts would somehow pay off."

It is a second Le Mans title for Bamber, who won in the 2015, also in a hybrid Porsche car. Hartley was second that year.

Bamber, 26, believed all hope was lost after spending so long getting repairs before the sun set and dropping to second-last.

"When I heard it [the engine] go 'bang' I thought, 100 per cent, our race was over," Bamber said.

"The guys turned it around. We thought we could finish in the top five. But this race really chooses you when it wants you to win."

The result continues a proud New Zealand record at Le Mans.

Two of the country's biggest names, Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon, tasted victory in 1966 while Bamber's success 49 years later came alongside Nico Hulkenberg (Germany) and Nick Tandy (Great Britain).

Bernhard crossed about one minute ahead of the Jackie Chan DC Racing team car, owned by the famed action movie star.

The victory - worth double points in the World Endurance Championship - propels the Kiwi pair and Bernhard into a handy lead after three of nine rounds.

They have accrued 83 points while the second-placed Toyota combination are on 62.

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