Circuit de la Sarthe, 20 June 2016 – As the Rolex countdown clock called time on an action-packed weekend, it was the #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid who claimed success at the 84th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans 2016. After a dramatic turn of events on the final lap, the team of Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb claimed Porsche’s second consecutive victory after 24 gruelling hours of hard fought racing. The 24 Hours of Le Mans is considered one of the toughest motor sport races in the world, and this year’s event perfectly demonstrated that when it comes to endurance racing, every second counts.
RACES WITHIN A RACE
The extreme weather conditions meant the historic race started behind the safety car. After 53 minutes, the real racing began and as conditions dried, the LMP1 class battle between the Audi, Porsche and Toyota teams began with Toyota taking an early advantage. Racing distances of over 5,000 kilometres on a combination of public roads and race track, the cars’ and drivers’ speed and reliability were tested to the absolute limits; their performance on track reflecting Rolex’s values of precision as well as the constant quest for perfection.
As night fell at the Circuit de la Sarthe, both the #1 Porsche 919 Hybrid and #7 Audi R18 teams had to make lengthy pit stops for repairs, taking them out of contention for the LMP1 class win. Meanwhile, the #82 Ferrari 488 GTE driven by Gian Carlo Fisichella led the Ford GTs in the GTE PRO class, as the 2015 winning Corvettes struggled for pace. As dawn broke, the drivers battled under intense pressure to perform at the highest level. The two Toyotas remained dominant for much of the morning until the #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid, driven by Neel Jani, split them as the race entered the final quarter. With four and a half hours to go the #68 Ford GT car, with Joey Hand behind the wheel, finally passed the #82 Ferrari 488 GTE and held the lead until the chequered flag, reigniting memories of one of the greatest contests in the history of Le Mans between Ferrari and Ford, when Ford completed a spectacular 1-2-3 podium finish 50 years ago.
TO EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
As the Rolex clock counted down the final minutes, the #5 Toyota TS050 Hybrid driven by Kazuki Nakajima looked almost certain for victory, but it was not meant to be. On the penultimate lap, Nakajima’s Toyota slowed unexpectedly, stunning both the 263,500 strong crowd around the track and the race’s global TV audience. As it approached the start finish line to complete its final lap, the Toyota TS050 Hybrid stopped briefly, allowing Neel Jani in the #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid to pass and take the victory. This sudden turn of events yet again proves that the 24 Hours of Le Mans is the ultimate endurance event and demands a flawless performance from start to finish.
The LMP2 class was won by the #36 Alpine A460-Nissan driven by Nicolas Lapierre, Stéphane Richelmi and Gustavo Menezes. The PRO AM class was won by Californian Scuderia Corsa team and the #62 Ferrari 458 Italia GTE driven by Townsend Bell, Jeffrey Segal and William Sweedler.
THE ULTIMATE RACING DRIVER’S WATCH
As Official Timepiece of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Rolex proudly presents the winners with a specially engraved Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona watch, regarded as the ultimate racing driver’s watch. Porsche driver and 24 Hours of Le Mans 2016 winner, Neel Jani said; “I have no words to describe winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans. We drove an incredibly good race with very few mistakes and pushed the car to the maximum. I kept thinking push, push, push! This win is really special for me and I am delighted to win the Rolex Daytona watch; I will keep it close to me forever.”
ROLEX AND MOTOR SPORT
Rolex's close ties with motor sport date back to Sir Malcolm Campbell’s World Land Speed Record successes in the 1930s, when he became the first driver to break the 300 mph barrier at the wheel of Bluebird. Since then, Rolex’s presence in motor racing has grown steadily, supporting iconic endurance races such as the Rolex 24 at Daytona® and the 24 Hours of Le Mans; iconic classic car events steeped in elegance, beauty and tradition, including the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion and Goodwood Revival; the leading motor sport series, Formula 1®, and most recently, the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Rolex, the leading brand of the Swiss watch industry, is headquartered in Geneva and enjoys an unrivalled reputation for quality and expertise the world over. Its Oyster watches, all certified as Superlative Chronometers for their precision, performance and reliability, are symbols of excellence, elegance and prestige. A pioneer in the development of the wristwatch as early as 1905, the brand is at the origin of numerous major watchmaking innovations, such as the Oyster, the first waterproof wristwatch, launched in 1926, and the Perpetual rotor self-winding mechanism invented in 1931. Rolex has registered over 400 patents in the course of its history. A truly integrated and independent manufacturing company, Rolex designs, develops and produces all the essential components of its watches in-house, from the casting of the gold alloys to the machining, crafting, assembly and finishing of the movement, case, dial and bracelet. Rolex is also actively involved in supporting the arts, sports, exploration, the spirit of enterprise, and the environment through a broad palette of sponsoring activities as well as philanthropic programmes.
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