MARK Webber says he never had a shot at winning the Le Mans 24 Hours, despite leading the race with just two hours to go.
The Aussie looked perfectly placed to snatch an unlikely victory from race heavyweights Audi and Toyota, but was cruelly robbed of an astonishing result when the engine in his Porsche 919 failed.
Victory, though, was never on the cards, with Webber telling Wheels he didn’t have the raw speed to hold off eventual race winners Audi.
“No, not at all,” said Webber, just minutes after climbing from his broken Porsche. “We knew it was going to be a slow kill towards the end there. We had a chance to lift the pace if we wanted to, but nowhere near enough to react as much as that. We were happy with the steps. That would have been a big day for us.”
But, despite the lack of silverware, a clearly gutted Webber says he’s leaving Le Mans with his head held high.
“We had a f--king great day out there today,” he said, “and I’m really proud, mate. There’s no guarantees in racing, but we walk out of here with our chins up. The man-hours that have gone in to get to that level are just astronomical and they’ve [Porsche] absolutely busted themselves and got within a sniff of a pretty special result.”
It was a tough race for Webber and his teammates, Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley. After qualifying fourth, a broken front roll bar at the five-hour mark hampered the Porsche’s handling.
“We had an issue from about eight o’clock last night; we just could not get the balance,” said Webber. “Something was wrong with the front, but it would have taken us a long time to change it, so we just had to press on. We obviously lost a lot of speed there in the car, so we just kept doing quadruple stints.
“We just said, ‘Okay, let’s try and make the tyres work’; the pace wasn’t quite there, so we had to try and do something different. And it was working, but then, yeah, looks like the engine has got a bit tired in the end.”
It’s a reliability weakness Webber says Porsche will perfect next year, with the Aussie confident he’ll return stronger come 2015.
“I’m leaving here a hell of a better Le Mans racer than yesterday,” he said. “We did a few things we’ll do differently next time for sure; that’s how it is, you just learn. You can’t go and test for Le Mans anywhere else, you have to do it here and that’s why Audi have got a decent manual.
“So I’ll have a few beers with the boys tonight; I think they have to. We’re feeling very gutted and there’s a lot of good things about that because there’s no embarrassment. We’re proud.
“Porsche can leave here and know it was a pretty decent crack. That was a decent effort. We made our presence felt. Audi and Toyota knew we were there and for us to be on the steps was a friggin’ good effort.”