Circuit de la Sarthe, Sunday 18 June 2017 – As the curtain falls on the 85th running of the world’s greatest endurance race, motor sport enthusiasts were treated to a sensational edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Following an action-packed race weekend, with raw emotion played out trackside, it was Timo Bernhard in the #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid who took the chequered flag as Porsche secured its 19th victory and third successive triumph at Le Mans. Recognized as the ‘Grand Prix of Endurance’, the 24 Hours of Le Mans demands more from the teams and drivers than any other racing event in the world, testing the limits of man and machine to the extreme, making it the perfect fit with Rolex.
On Saturday 17 June at 15:00 CET, with soaring track temperatures and a fevered anticipation amongst the crowds at Circuit de la Sarthe, the sixty cars lined up on the grid – their one mission, to travel the furthest distance in 24 hours. Grand Marshal and Rolex Testimonee, Mark Webber drove the leading car on the formation lap, before pulling away from the field as the French Tricolore dropped to officially start the race. Remarkable scenes unfolded as last year’s rivalry between Toyota and Porsche was reignited in the Le Mans Prototype 1 (LMP1) class. It was also one of the closest races for the LM GTE Pro classification as only minutes separated the top five positions in the category for most of the race, keeping fans, teams and drivers on the edge of their seats from start to finish.
Porsche drivers Timo Bernhard, Earl Bamber and Brendon Hartley claimed a momentous victory in a race where all six LMP1 cars encountered difficulties; two of the three TS050 Hybrids fielded by Toyota were forced to retire in the early hours of Sunday morning. The suspense continued as race leader, André Lotterer, in the #1 Porsche 919 Hybrid, suffered a technical issue and suddenly slowed to a stop on the Mulsanne Straight, retiring from the race with only three hours to go.
In the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) category, the #13 and #31 Oreca 07-Gibson cars fielded by Vaillante Rebellion soon dominated the class. The #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing was a force to be reckoned with as it overtook the #13 in the sixteenth hour. The misfortunes in the LMP1 class also played to their advantage with the three LMP2 cars topping the overall timetable in the final few hours of the race. The pace of the #38 car was never likely to be strong enough to resist the inexorable #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid, which finally claimed the lead in the penultimate hour of the race. It was a proud moment for the Oreca 07-Gibson #38 and #13 cars though as they took 2nd and 3rd place respectively on the podium – the first time for LMP2 cars at Le Mans.
It was the trio of Chevrolet, Aston Martin and Ford who battled for victory in the final laps of the LM GTE Pro class. The #97 Aston Martin Vantage driven by Jonathan Adam, Daniel Serra and Darren Turner claimed victory ahead of the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK driven by Luis-Felipe Derani, Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell in a dramatic finish. In Le Mans GTE Am, a well-balanced class soon turned into a tussle between the Ferrari 488 GTE, Aston Martin and Porsche 911 RSR. As the Rolex clock counted down the final minutes, it was the #84 JMW Motorsport Ferrari driven by Will Stevens, Dries Vanthoor and Robert Smith, which rose from seventh on the class grid to win the race.
This weekend’s extraordinary scenes proved once again that racing on the limit over the course of 24 hours not only requires a unique combination of precision, skill and awareness, but reliability and performance are also vital to success at the Circuit de la Sarthe. Le Mans is “one of the most demanding yet the most rewarding races in the world”, said nine-time Le Mans winner, Tom Kristensen, and continued, “it is always a balance between triumph and tragedy.” Forty-nine of the sixty race starters crossed the finish line after 24 hours, exemplifying the punishing nature of this 13.629km circuit and proving once more that crossing the finish line is a challenge in itself.
The podium ceremony was filled with emotion as Rolex Testimonee and Grand Marshal, Mark Webber presented the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans trophies to his former team-mates. As the Official Timepiece of the 24 Hours of Le Mans since 2001, Rolex rewarded the winners with a specially engraved Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona watch; regarded as the ultimate racing driver’s watch, it has been witness to legendary feats of endurance and worn by those who continue to push the boundaries to the limits. Porsche driver and 24 Hours of Le Mans 2017 winner, Brendon Hartley said: “This is a moment I will remember for the rest of my life; you cannot write stories like that. It feels great to win the race and the watch - it is steeped in history just like the 24 Hour of Le Mans. Having raced in both the 24 Hours of Le Mans and at the Rolex 24 At Daytona, I’ve always dreamed of winning this watch.”
ROLEX AND ENDURANCE
In 2017, the FIA World Endurance Championship will race on four continents and continue to bring the ‘Spirit of Le Mans’ to motor sport fans in the UK, Belgium, Germany, Mexico, US, Japan, China and Bahrain. In line with its passion for speed and drive to push back the boundaries of what is possible, Rolex partners the FIA World Endurance Championship as well as the three world-class endurance events that have come to form the Triple Crown of endurance racing: the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA, the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Engine speed and reliability, along with team and driver stamina are magnified during these challenging races, which require unique concentration, skill and mental strength.
Leading brand of the Swiss watch industry, Rolex, headquartered in Geneva, enjoys an unrivalled reputation for quality and expertise the world over. Its Oyster and Cellini watches, all certified as Superlative Chronometers for their precision, performance and reliability, are symbols of excellence, elegance and prestige. Founded by Hans Wilsdorf in 1905, the brand pioneered the development of the wristwatch and 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 in-house all the essential components of its watches, 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.