It also opened the door for Porsche which, despite its LMP1 cars struggling to keep pace, was suddenly free and clear to build a solid lead over the rest of the pack. The vehicle made it back to the lead lap with just two hours remaining and Bernhard behind the wheel. Porsche, at one point, held a 13 lap lead, which dissolved into a 5 lap deficit instantaneously.
That vehicle, driven by New Zealanders Earl Bamber and Brendon Hartley along with Germany's Timo Bernhard, had appeared out of contention after suffering front axle problems on Saturday and rejoining in 55th place and 22 laps down.
The Japanese constructor had invested heavily in this year's edition with hopes high that one of their three-car challenge would finally deliver an elusive first win on the fabled Sarthe circuit.
The No.9 Toyota - its last hope of victory after an earlier hybrid failure for the No.8 machine - was involved in a minor crash in the 11th hour of the race, causing a puncture that went on to wreck the rear of the vehicle.
Jani will start from third on the grid after posting a time of 3:17.259 to finish ahead of the 919 Hybrid No. 2. The auto was running very well and we were just taking things steady, building a gap at the front. He was told to switch off and try using electric power to limp to the pits.
Kamui Kobayashi and Toyota were leading the way in the battle for supremacy, but mechanical issues forced the team to retire.
Toyota have been five times runners-up in 18 failed attempts at Le Mans but this year had been tipped to become only the second Japanese manufacturer - after Mazda in 1991 - to win the French race.
With new regulations announced for 2020 and created to massively reduce costs while also further help vehicle manufacturers to pursue electric power, the organizers of Le Mans (ACO) and the governing body of world motorsport (FIA), hope to keep the class relevant and try to return to the point of 2015 when Nissan's entry had led to four major manufacturers in the class. Right? The vehicle spent hours trying to make up ground after being kicked down the order to 56th overall.
Hartley, who had done much of the hard work to drag Porsche back into the race, was in tears. Twice as much power of an LMP2 vehicle with nearly the same weight and running a standard, normally aspirated internal combustion engine.
With 66 minutes to go, Bernhard was able to run down Tung and take the overall lead away. It was properly nail-biting stuff. But what we have gone through over the past 24 hours, you could not imagine in your wildest dreams.
"This 24-hour race just pushed everything and everyone to the limit", he says.
"It was an incredible team effort". I am confident with this auto and how to get the best. This team is the best of all and made today's success possible.
Kobayashi pitted for routine service while under the race's second safety auto period before going into the queue at pit exit, where Vasselon said he was signaled to re-enter the track by a fake marshal, believed to be a driver from another team.
Porsche team principal Andreas Seidl praised Toyota for being "a very strong competitor". The drivers and the entire team have done an wonderful job.
To live up to having been called a "rival" I had thought that what we needed to do this year was to again put up a brilliant fight that would captivate the fans.
The No. 2 Porsche 919 won Le Mans Sunday. The team worked relentlessly for this over the past twelve months.
We will hone our technologies even further and ripen them to provide our customers with technologies that will truly make them smile.
Bernhard drove through the closing stages to take the chequered flag in one of the more remarkable results at the world's pre-eminent endurance auto event. Timo was the development driver right from the beginning of the program. It then ran into clutch problems and Kobayashi's attempts to bring the vehicle back to the pits on electrical power failed.
An astonishing victory looked a possibility... but Porsche had other ideas.
"But, anyway, no matter where you are, we win!" First it was the #8, which spent almost two hours in the garage undergoing hybrid system repairs in the early evening. "We risked it all and got the reward".
"I was really pleased, but obviously there's a lot of competition".
"Last year we almost won it with a good fight during the race". Porsche will also have several 911 RSRs competing in the LM GTE Pro and LM GTE Am classes.
"When I saw the time as I crossed the line, I said to myself, wow!"
Toyota's Le Mans fortunes died in the dark.
The #2 auto had been rapidly making up time ever since their hour in the pits and went into the final few hours knowing that they could catch the leaders.