Hulkenberg leads Porsche to Le Mans win

Porsche led by Formula One driver Nico Hulkenberg have won their first 24 Hours Le Mans in 17 years after holding off Audi in a tight duel.

The two German manufacturers exchanged the lead early on but Porsche managed to fend off their rivals, who had won 13 of the previous 15 races.

The 83rd edition of the endurance event was halted four times but Hulkenberg came home first alongside co-drivers Earl Bamber of New Zealand and Englishman Nick Tandy after controlling the lead for the final few hours on Sunday in their Hybrid car.

They clocked up 395 laps.

“It’s difficult to find the right words, it’s probably the best day of my career, maybe even my life,” beamed an ecstatic Hulkenberg, who has raced 83 Grand Prix.

“It’s been a fantastic week, I won with two great drivers, who are good guys. I’m happy to have written a chapter into the history books of Le Mans, I hope to return next year,” added the 27-year-old.

The number 19 Porsche started from the second row on the grid.

It was a terrific race for the German manufacturer, who also claimed second place, with former F1 driver Mark Webber steering home the number 17 car alongside Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard.

Australian Webber – who quit Formula One in 2013 with nine wins to his name – led at one stage.

In front of 263,500 spectators, the Porsche victory was the the first time since 1998 when Scot Allan McNish and colleagues Stephane Ortelli and Laurent Aiello took the honours.

Hulkenberg also becomes the first active Formula One driver to win Le Mans since Johnny Herbert and Bertrand Gachot for Mazda in 1991.

The German has little time to revel in his achievements though as his attention will now switch to next weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix where he will aim to improve on his current 12th position in the drivers’ standings.

Porsche, forced to take a backseat behind Audi in recent years, seized control on Saturday night when Webber’s car hit the front and they seldom looked like relinquishing it.

Audi did manage to make the podium, however, defending race champions Andre Lotterer, Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer finishing third in their number seven R18 e-tron quattro car.

In the LMGTE Am class, American actor Patrick Dempsey took second on his fourth appearance at the 24 Hours.

The 49-year-old, famous for his role as Dr Derek Shepherd in medical drama Grey’s Anatomy, completed 330 laps of Circuit de la Sarthe in his Porsche 911 RSR.

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