Webber, who was driving with New Zealand’s Brendon Hartley and Germany’s Timo Bernhard, led the race early but a water temperature issue ultimately ended their chances.
It was the latest in a long-line of unfortunate close calls for Webber at Le Mans; in 1999 his Mercedes flipped spectacularly in practice and he did not race and in 2015 he finished second.
But Porsche won the Le Mans 24 Hours sportscar race for the second year in a row after Toyota had a first victory snatched from their grasp by a last lap power failure overnight.
Japanese driver Kazuki Nakajima had been on course to take the chequered flag when sudden drama unfolded as he reported a problem with five minutes remaining. He then slowed before coming to a halt.
That allowed Porsche to blast past and claim their 18th victory, with the German manufacturer’s No.2 919 hybrid car shared by Switzerland’s Neel Jani, Frenchman Roland Dumas and Germany’s Marc Lieb.
“What can I say? First of all I feel sorry for the boys down in the other garage,” said Lieb. “They deserved this, they were giving us a hard time as well. This race should have had two winners, it was really unbelievable.”
The 84th edition of the race was watched by a crowd of 263,500 spectators.
Toyota would have been only the second Japanese manufacturer to win the greatest prize in sportscar racing, after Mazda in 1991, but instead finished as runners-up for the fifth time.
Nakajima had shared the stricken No.5 Toyota TS050 hybrid car with Britain’s Anthony Davidson and Switzerland’s Sebastien Buemi.
“I literally have no words,” said Davidson on Twitter, reporting that Nakajima had said he was ready to cry as he crossed the line.
The Toyota pit crew beat him to that as well, with the heartbreak evident across the garage.
Instead it was the No.6 Toyota that took second place for Japan’s Kamui Kobayashi, France’s Stephane Sarrazin and Britain’s Mike Conway.
Audi finished third with their number eight car.
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