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Salem Radio Network News Monday, August 21, 2017

Sports

Porsche race to salvage Le Mans hat-trick

LE MANS, France (Reuters) – Champions Porsche were racing to salvage a third successive victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans on Sunday after the team’s number one car retired some four hours from the finish while leading by a massive margin.

Early pace-setters Toyota had already seen their hopes of a first win, and only the second by a Japanese manufacturer, disappear when two of their three cars stopped overnight at the Sarthe circuit.

The retirement of the number one Porsche driven by former winners Neel Jani of Switzerland, Britain’s Nick Tandy and Germany’s Andre Lotterer handed the lead to the number 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca entry.

“I’m speechless. It’s a crazy race,” said Lotterer after being sidelined by an oil pressure issue.

The second tier LMP2 Oreca, driven by Frenchman Thomas Laurent, Britain’s Oliver Jarvis and Dutch-born Chinese racer Ho-Pin Tung, had been 13 laps behind the Porsche 919 hybrid at the time.

The chances of that crew making it to the chequered flag without surrendering the lead looked unlikely however, barring further mechanical misfortune, with the number two Porsche only two laps behind.

That car, driven by New Zealanders Earl Bamber and Brendon Hartley along with Germany’s Timo Bernhard, had appeared out of contention after suffering front axle problems on Saturday and rejoining in 55th place and 22 laps down.

If Porsche could still see light at the end of the tunnel, there was none at Toyota whose only remaining car was in ninth place and 11 laps behind.

In an agonizing half hour after midnight for the Japanese manufacturer, whose hopes were high after securing pole position with a record fastest lap at the Sarthe circuit, their number seven and nine cars retired in quick succession.

“It is so disappointing. The car was running very well and we were just taking things steady, building a gap at the front. Then after the safety car, I just had no power,” said pole-sitter Kamui Kobayashi.

The former Formula One driver was halted by a clutch problem in the leading number seven car around the 10 hours mark.

Until then, the car had barely missed a beat as five times runners-up Toyota set about trying to end their years of heartache.

The team missed out last year when their leading car broke down on the final lap only minutes from the chequered flag.

Kobayashi got going again momentarily before the car stopped again and he had no option but to park up and walk away.

“I tried to come back to the pits but it wasn’t possible. I feel so sad for everyone in the team who has worked so hard for this race and produced such a quick car,” he said.

The number nine car driven by Frenchman Nicolas Lapierre, Japan’s Yuji Kunimoto and Argentina’s Jose Maria Lopez was involved in a collision 15 minutes later with too much damage to continue.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Peter Rutherford/Amlan Chakraborty)

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