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)