Audi rules Le Mans!

Starting from pole position the nr1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro made Le Mans history by becoming the first hybrid car to win the 24 Heures du Mans. Andre Lotterer took the chequered flag after 378 laps to retain the title he won with Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler last year and also secured maximum points for both the manufacturers and drivers titles in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

240,000 people travelled for the 80th edition of the world’s greatest endurance race and were treated to a classic race that was action packed from start to finish. The main challenge to the nr1 Audi came from the second hybrid Audi driven by Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Dindo Capello but also from the two Toyota TS030 hybrids, which ran comfortably in the top three and led for some of the race. However a big accident destroyed the nr8 Toyota driven by Anthony Davidson and the second Toyota eventually retired with engine failure in the 11th hour.

With the Toyotas out of the frame it was a straight fight between the four Audis but which Audi would be on the top step of the podium? The nr3 Audi Ultra had problems when Romain Dumas went off at the first chicane and destroyed the front of the car. The Frenchman managed to get the car back to the pit for repairs. Then Marc Gene did exactly the same thing at the same corner on Sunday morning and this effectively dropped them out of contention.

The two hybrid Audis were evenly matched and the result was certainly not clear cut until McNish in the nr2 car went off at Porsche Curves and had to spend six minutes in the pits while the damaged parts were replaced. However a safety car was deployed so he only lost 1 lap to the nr1 car. This was how the result looked at the end of 24 hours, with the nr4 Audi R18 Ultra in 3rd place, which isn’t entered for the FIA World Endurance Championship.

The private team’s LMP1 battle was dominated by the Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyotas with the nr12 Lola of Nicolas Prost, Neel Jani and Nick Heidfeld triumphing at the end of the grueling race and finishing 4th overall at the flag. The nr 13 Rebellion Lola of Harold Primat, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Andrea Belicchi ran a close second to the sister car until a problem forced the car into the garage dropping it back to 3rd. The nr22 JRM HPD-Honda was a distance 2nd and the Strakka Racing HPD came back out at the end after also spending a lot of time in the garage.

The LMP2 class was won by the nr44 Starworks Motorsport HPD-Honda with Enzo Potolicchio and Ryan Dalziel adding a second class victory to the one they scored in Sebring and give the team a strong advantage in the LMP2 FIA Endurance Trophy. Tom Kimber-Smith, who replaced Stephane Sarrazin in the team for this race, scored his second Le Mans victory in consecutive seasons. The nr49 Pecom Racing Oreca Nissan of Pierre Kaffer, Soheil Ayari and Luis Perez-Companc were the second WEC car in LMP2, while the nr 41 Greaves Motorsport Zytek-Nissan scored a bumper 30 championship points for third for the British team.

The LMGTE Pro category turned into a classic Ferrari versus Aston Martin battle with the nr51 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia of Giancarlo Fisichella, Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander holding off the challenge of the nr59 Luxury Racing Ferrari of Frederic Makowiecki, Jaime Melo and Dominik Farnbacher and the nr97 Aston Martin Racing Vantage V8 of Darren Turner, Stefan Mucke and Adrian Fernandez. The Luxury Racing Ferrari had a long pitstop towards the end of the race, dropping the car down two laps but still 1 lap ahead of the Aston Martin.

The LMGTE Am class was equally close with the nr50 Larbre Competition Chevrolet Corvette of Pedro Lamy, Julien Canal and Patrick Bornhauser have a very close battle with the nr67 IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche. This battle continued for a couple of hours before the Corvette got the upper hand. The second WEC car in the LMGTE Am class to cross the line was the nr57 Krohn Racing Ferrari of Tracey Krohn, Niclas Jonsson and Michele Rugolo.

The next round of the FIA World Endurance Championship is the 6 Hours of Silverstone on the 26th August before the championship heads to South America for the 6 Hours of Sao Paulo three weeks later.

(Image: Gerlach Delissen)

10 Comments on Audi rules Le Mans!

  1. It is really quite tragic that the Toyotas were out so early. The crash with the 81 Ferrari was not Davidsons fault, however Nakajima’s contact with the Deltawing was his fault alone. That is another regrettable incident as the Deltawing was running very well after the gearbox issues were sorted. I would have loved to see the Toyotas continue the challenge and the Deltawing finish but it was not to be.

    ** On a side note, anyone else notice that in the last 2 Le Mans, the 3 big crashes with prototypes also involved Ferraris? Hmmm . . . conspiracy?

  2. @Marcus sidenote: Did you notice that Mcnish Crash/spin at the Porsche Curves was behind a Ferrari? Are the Ferraris 458 that terrifying nowadays?
    About the second Toyota Crash: my first reaction was…it was Audi’s fault…the second Audi’s fault!
    I explain: Toyota and Audi were fighting in the Porsches but there was another Audi between them. When the Toyota tried to pass him he moved to the right and the Toyota moved to the right to avoid hitting him. But who was also on the right? The Deltawing! An innocent bystander of team tactics by the big boys.
    The Toyota rookie shouldn’t have tried that manoeuvre in such a dangerous place, OK, but he he’s a racing driver in a dog fight. Go tell him to stop! The Audis were not exactly saints in their fights either.
    I was astounded why no one mentioned and put all the blame on the Toyota.
    Was not in Petit LeMans last year that a Pug lapping a slower car moved to the right “sending” an Audi to the Armco? Back then and during the race there was a lot of talk of dangerous driving by the Peugeot. Not this time?
    This also sounds like a conspiracy, lol!
    Great race, though. And Lamy finally won something at LeMans!

  3. @ Mario Silva
    I did notice McNish’s off involved a Ferrari, but since the off was self inflicted and no contact was made with the Ferrari, I felt it did not warrant inclusion. However, since I mentioned a conspiracy, maybe it should be!

    I would have to watch the replay of Nakajima’s incident with the Deltawing again as I did not notice the lapped Audi move to the right. I will say that all the Audi drivers this year acted as if the road belonged to them.

  4. @ Marcus: Sorry my mistake. I watched the replay of Nakajima incident and well…the Audi moved to the right…but only after the Toyota made contact with the Deltawing…it’s fractions of a second but it’s there. My mistake. Foolish Nakajima, there was a straight after that corner…

  5. Amazed that in the past 2 years all three Audi incidents involved Luxury Racing Ferraris. The Nakjima incident I blame it more on race control that the fast prototypes were released behind slower cars after the safety car. Bonami #4 Audi got out ahead of the situation and car #1 was leading at that point.
    Nakjima he’s a rookie and all but with so much traffic in the porsche curves he shouldn’t have been that aggressive so early

  6. Sorry, guys, but the first thing to mention should be that thanks to the excellent passive safety of nowaday’s LMP1 cars Anthony Davidson will recover completely. But on the other hand: wasn’t it the main goal of that ugly fin on the cars to prevent them from going airborne? Obviously that didn’t work! And concerning the “Ferrari GT issue”: Guys like Kauffmann (very similar accident with Rockenfeller’s Audi last year) and Perazzini shouldn’t be in the car at a high speed circuit like Spa oder Le Mans. Even if it might be a problem for the budget of a few competitors, I would prefer to have only drivers in the cockpit on these circuits who have at least a “Silver” ranking according to FIA rankings. Otherwise one day someone might pay with his life!
    The incident with Nakajima and the Deltawing was simply impatience of an unexperienced driver, not the fault of the Audi’s ahead.

  7. Great initial pace from both Toyota’s! Sad, though, to see both cars taken out by themselves or by other competitors so early in the race…
    Also sad to see the Delta Wing taken out so early in the race. I wonder whether we’ll see that car back on track again somewhere in the near future, because although being taken out by others is a risk in car racing, I’d love to see that car finish properly! Does anybody know more about the future of this racecar?

  8. Remember that the regulations of the race is written by the European car makers for the European car makers, including those for hybrid vehicles. It was written so that Audis and Peugeots can take the advantage. With last minute withdraw by Peugeot brought Toyota in the race. I think Toyota’s done a heck of a job, considering the time they had from their announcement of entering the race.

    LeMan’s are favoring European car makers obviously, as seen in the banning of rotary engines after Mazda winning the race.

    Well, I’m sure Toyota will be back next year and hopefully a better luck next time.

  9. @suzuken98:
    I agree that Toyota/ORECA did a great job to be competitive right away after a minimum of preparation time. But I can’t understand your point about the regulations “being written for the European car makers”. The regulations are simply the same for every competitor, and how can technical regulations be more suitable for a European brand than for an Asian one? And you have to see: The Toyota Le Mans project is a totally European project: the cars are developed by the Toyota Motorsport Group TMG in Cologne, Germany (the former Toyota F1 team) by an international team of engineers, and the team responsible for the tests and races is ORECA, an experienced French racing company. So in the end you have to ask yourself what is at all Japanese in the Toyota LMP team? I guess not much!

  10. Yes, the regulations are open to all manufacturers. But please note that the regulations can be written in favor of some technologies if not manufacturers. As everyone knows, Toyota has been a pioneer in hybrid technology, the strong-hybrid technology. But there are no other manufacturers have that technology, as of today. So what did the regulators do? They lowered the hurdles and changed the definition of “hybrid”, so it would include mild and other types of hybrid technology. I understand that the organizers wanted to go “green” and open the category to as much manufactures as possible and that ended to including not-true-hybrid vehicle like the R18. I read a few comments saying that they didn’t hear any motor noise coming from the R18, unlike the Toyotas on the pit road. That explains it.
    The R18 is a superb car, no doubt about that. Audi followed the rules, yes. But the rules was written so that they can PR the greenness and have enough players…which was a dilemma to start with. So, in who’s favor did the regulation work?…Audi.

    Yes, I understand your point on the project is all European. But how do you explain the banning of rotary engine from the race…which happened right after Mazda winning the race?

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