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Porsche ends Audi reign at 24 Hours Le Mans endurance race

Porsche ends Audi's five-year run as champion at 24 Hours Le Mans

With German Formula One driver Nico Hulkenberg behind the wheel, Porsche won the 24 Hours Le Mans on Sunday to end Audi's five-race winning run and clinch a record 17th victory at the famous endurance race.

Hulkenberg was one of the three drivers in the No. 19 car, which finished ahead of No. 17 Porsche, featuring former F1 driver Mark Webber, and Audi's No. 7 car.

Audi had won seven of the past eight races, with Porsche's last win coming in 1998.

"Thank you so much everybody, great effort over the last few months," Hulkenberg said over race radio as he headed back into the garage waving to the flag-waving Porsche fans.

The 27-year-old Hulkenberg, driving in the race for the first time, will be back in action in a Force India car at the Austrian Grand Prix next weekend — his 85th F1 race.

British driver Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber of New Zealand were the other drivers in the No. 19 car.

"These are tears of happiness. I'm lost for words," Tandy said. "I hope it's the first of many. I grew up watching the race."

Webber was partnered in the No. 17 by German driver Timo Bernhard and New Zealander Brendon Hartley.

"It's been an incredible race, an incredible sports car race," Webber said.

Porsche returned to Le Mans last year after a 16-year absence in the top category, but struggled because of a mechanical problem as Marcel Fassler, Andre Lotterer, and Benoit Treluyer helped Audi to victory. This time, the Porsche 919 hybrids proved too dominant after overcoming an early scare.

"There's only victory that counts in this race ... Porsche deserved to win. Hats off to them," Lotterer said. "We'll do everything to come back stronger and we've learned a lot from this race."

Audi's No. 8 finished fourth ahead of Porsche's No. 18.

Audi's bad luck was summed up when, with two hours to go, the No. 7 car, driven by Treluyer, went to the garage for an oil change and then had to come back straight away to fix some loose bodywork.

"We were very competitive yesterday, it went well for us on Saturday but things changed overnight," Audi director Wolfgang Ullrich said. "We had a problem with our bonnets, which never happened to us before. It's something we'll have to study and rectify back home."

Shortly before the end of the race, Ullrich went into the Porsche garage to congratulate his rivals.

"It's the end of a winning run for Audi, but we'll be back next year," he said.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
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