There are no guarantees when it comes to racing at Le Mans. Despite starting on pole, setting the fastest lap, and leading nearly half the race, Toyota's hopes of victory had evaporated by hour 10. The two leading Toyota TS050 LMP1 cars retired in rapid succession due to mechanical failures, leaving Porsche with a clear shot at its third straight Le Mans win.
With Audi's exit last year, the LMP1 class was a two-team race and Toyota's best chance at finally bringing home a win at Le Mans. Last year, the automaker suffered a heartbreaking failure on the final lap. Sadly, Toyota's hybrid prototypes again couldn't go the distance in 2017. The race-leading No. 7 TS050 Hybrid experienced a clutch problem at hour 10 right after it passed the star-finish line and was unable to limp all the way around the 8.5-mile track to get back to the pits. Not long after, the No. 9 Toyota was hit from behind, resulting in a fire. It, too, could not return to the pits under its own power. The No. 8 car came in at hour 8 for a front motor issue, and was eventually able to return to the race to finish in eighth place.
Porsche's No. 1 919 Hybrid takes the lead after Toyota's late-night misfortune, but it too suffers problems shortly after 11 am. The No. 2 Porsche is still in the race, but is a few laps down. For a short time, an LMP2 car, the No. 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07, leads the race. That team is co-owned by action star Jackie Chan and David Cheng. The No. 2 Porsche does eventually pass the much less powerful LMP2 for the win, but the No. 38 finishes second overall and just a lap down from the leader, making for a surprising podium. Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley, and Earl Bamber occupy the top step, marking the first overall win for Hartley and the second overall win for Bernhard and Bamber. Oliver Jarvis, Ho-Pin Tung, and Thomas Laurent win second overall and first in the LMP2 class in the No. 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca. It's the first time a Chinese-owned team has placed on the podium at Le Mans. In third place overall and second in LMP2 is the No. 13 Rebellion Racing Oreca 07 of Nelson Piquet Jr., David Heinemeier Hansson, and Mathias Beche. Rebellion used to race in the top-tier LMP1 class before switching to LMP2 for the 2017 season. Ironically, the team's first overall podium was achieved in a lower-class car.
The finishing order in the GTE-Pro class was just as surprising. Despite taking home first and third in GTE-Pro last year, the Ford GT couldn't pull off a win to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt's 1967 Le Mans victory. The No. 67 Ford GT of Pipo Derani, Harry Tincknell, and Andy Priaulx did place second, however. The class winner was the No. 97 Aston Martin V8 Vantage GTE of Darren Turner, Jonathan Adam, and Daniel Serra. That car pulled off a dramatic last-lap pass on the No. 63 Corvette Racing C7.R to bring home Aston's first class win in a decade. The No. 63 Corvette suffered front end damage and a tire puncture after running wide trying to defend against the Aston, allowing the Ford to slip by and place 'Vette pilots Jordan Taylor, Jan Magnussen, and Antonio Garcia on the third step of the GTE-Pro podium.
The 2017 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans proves it's the toughest road race on the planet. Even if you're the favorite to win, there are many, many obstacles between you and the finish line.