Mark Webber said Porsche should be proud of its achievements in the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours and described the #20 car's retirement from the race as “one of the best you could probably have”.
On Porsche's return to Le Mans' top class for the first time since 1998, the #20 car was leading with less than three hours to go as Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard benefited from reliability issues at Audi. While the #2 Audi was closing in, there appeared to be a chance of victory but Bernhard and Webber were unable to run at full pace before Webber slowed to a crawl in the penultimate hour and was forced to retired the car.
Webber said it was hard for the team to have come so close to finishing but admitted leading in the final hours had come as a surprise.
“That was tough for everyone,” Webber said. “It would have been such an amazing achievement to go through to the finish. I think we never expected to be in such a great position towards the end of the race. What Porsche did is a very big feather in its cap. Few people know how hard it is to get the cars to this point in the race. I'm really sorry for the guys.”
And Webber was keen to look for the positives of the retirement, saying Porsche's failure to finish could have come about in a worse way.
“There is never ever a good retirement in Le Mans, but [Sunday's was] one of the best you could probably have in a way, because we went so far and we learned so much. If you stop early you learn nothing and it's tough. When you stop with a lap to go it's probably even more brutal. It was our first time here at Le Mans and we were very close to the podium.”
Bernhard also admitted it was a tough result to take but said the performance itself was very encouraging.
“I think, after all, it was a great return for Porsche – to come back to Le Mans and to the WEC after such a long time,” Bernhard said. “But for me it is very sad because we were fighting very hard – at the end, in fact, also for the victory. It would have been a podium at least. It is hard to take, the guys did a great job.
“The car was running well. We had some difficult issues with the balance of the car, and it was not easy to drive. But in the end, I was saving fuel and keeping away from the kerbs. And then we had a broken engine, which happened in first gear. But I think the bottom line is, it's a great return by Porsche.”