Audi claim victory in tense Le Mans 24 Hours

Le Mans 24 Hours

Start, Le Mans 24 Hours, 2011

Start, Le Mans 24 Hours, 2011

Audi won the Le Mans 24 Hours for the tenth time in 12 years following a closely-fought race.

The number two car of Marcel Fassler, Andre Lotterer and Benoit Treluyer was the only Audi left in the race following two huge crashes suffered by their team mates.

The race came down to a thrilling sprint to the finish as the leading Audi and Peugeot made their final pit stops within minutes of each other.

That left Lotterer’s lead down to just seven seconds after 23-and-a-half hours of racing.

But Audi took the opportunity to put a fresh set of tyres on the car, which proved decisive over the final half-hour. Lotterer was able to extend his lead over the chasing Simon Pagenaud and take victory by the slender margin of 13 seconds after 24 hours’ racing.

It is Audi’s tenth win in 12 years at Le Mans.

The Peugeots filled second, third, fourth and fifth places having stalked the Audis all race long. They were led by Pagenaud in the car he shared with Sebastien Bourdais and Pedro Lamy.

Stephane Sarrazin, Franck Montagny and Nicolas Minassian shared the third-placed car. Anthony Davidson, Marc Gene and Alexander Wurz finished fourth, the car losing time due to repairs after Wurz crashed at Indianapolis.

The ORECA-run Peugeot 908 of Nicolas Lapierre, Loic Duval and Oliver Panis was fifth.

Audi lost two of their three cars in a pair of horrendous crashes on Saturday.

Towards the end of the first hour Allan McNish tagged the Ferrari of Anthony Beltoise and spun into the barriers at the Dunlop Curves at huge speeds. The car was extensively damaged but fortunately McNish, and the nearby photographers who were showered with debris, was unhurt.

The number one Audi crashed out in similar circumstances after night fell. Mike Rockenfeller hit the barriers at Indianapolis at very high speed, utterly destroying his R18. The safety car was out for well over two hours as hundreds of posts in the barrier had to be replaced.

Rockenfeller, mercifully, was uninjured apart from a flesh wound.

Controversy surrounded the defensive tactics of the Peugeot. On several occasions the sole remaining Audi caught one of the lapped cars and spent several laps trying to get past.

Anthony Davidson spent several laps ahead of Benoit Treluyer, eventually pulling away from the leader. Later on Marc Gene defended even more aggressively from Andre Lotterer, making contact with the Audi at the chicane at one point before letting him past.

The LMP2 category was won comfortably by the Greaves Zytek-Nissan shared by Karim Ojjeh, Tom Kimber-Smith and Olivier Lombard.

Chevrolet won the GTE Pro category with Olivier Beretta, Tommy Milner and Antonio Garcia at the wheel.

The amateur category was won by another Chevrolet, shared by Patrick Bornhauser, Julien Canal and Gabriele Gardel.

Image ?é?® Audi

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48 comments on Audi claim victory in tense Le Mans 24 Hours

  1. damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 12th June 2011, 14:11

    That was the first time I’d ever attempted watching the Le Mans 24 Hours – and I don’t regret a moment (hour :P) of it! Fabulous racing, drama and controversy. The Grand Prix has a lot to live up to.

    Big thanks to Keith for running the live blog, and to everyone that helped me to understand what was happening.

    • TrueF1Grit (@truef1grit) said on 12th June 2011, 14:17

      Did you stay up all night and watch it all! Dedication.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 12th June 2011, 14:28

      For me it was the 3rd time. Although I did not have much footage available save the Peugeot stream last time.

      It was well worth the effort and i am looking forward to doing it again.
      The live blog was a real treat for asking questions, sharing streams, getting updates on what i missed during ad brakes and the inevitable periods away from the screen. Great idea and thanks for hosting it Keith.

      And a what an edition of LeMans it was.

      • S.J.M (@sjm) said on 12th June 2011, 14:47

        Ive watched some of it before, but few hours here & there. Never the full 24hrs, but watched about 18hrs this year after being at work for the 1st hour and 4 or so hrs sleep after 12;00.

        Great race though, and to end it with 12seconds spliting the 1st & 2nd.

      • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 12th June 2011, 16:40

        I have seen it for the first time relatively extensively two years ago, but then like you, I did’t have a lot of tv/image, I did find radio Le Mans.

        Last year I could follow the whole race on Eurosport 1&2, even attempted to record it on dvr completely because I couldn’t see it all and needed sleep, but quickly realised I would never have time, and wasn’t going to, see the whole race after having seen the last hours, and Le Mans 24 with highlights.

        This year, I moved and thus had a different cable company, I only had Eurosport HD, but used a lot of different feeds and watched more of it – it helped that Canada doesn’t conflict, esp. with that safety car during qualifying. I only missed the end of the 2nd safety car until about 8am (yeah, most of the night). Very nice.

        Helps that my wife was away, my parents let me use the laptop while we ate together at their place, and I had some data inputting to do, so I could tell myself I didn’t just wast today in front of the screen but did something useful without getting bored :)

    • xtophe (@xtophe) said on 12th June 2011, 17:58

      Dito, it was far more exciting than I expected beforehand!

    • The Sri Lankan said on 12th June 2011, 23:02

      All i cared about was seeing those Toyota powered Rebellion cars taking the petrol honors. there was no way that any petrol car could take the fight t the diesels. but that was one entertaining race. no matter how much i like F1 i think Le mans is not something that should be missed. the crashes, the battles are something that F1 can only deram of nowadays

  2. Calum said on 12th June 2011, 14:13

    10 in 12 years! That’s consistency for you, and wasn’t one of the non-Audi years won by a Bentley – essentially a rebadged Audi!

    • Fixy (@fixy) said on 12th June 2011, 14:30

      I supported Marc Gené, as he is a Ferrari driver, but between the manufacturers I supported Audi, and I’m happy they have had a success after the two potentially fatal crashes.

      • TheBrav3 said on 13th June 2011, 1:10

        The first crash was far more potentially fatal for about eight photographers who were standing almost underneath mcnishs airborn rotating audi. He should take a leaf out of his own stewarding book on that one.

        • The Sri Lankan said on 13th June 2011, 1:49

          HAHA now that you’ve reminded me, isn’t this the same Guy that scolded Lewis Hamilton for Monaco less than two weeks ago? he’s had a quite a good career in trashing and bashing – Suzuka, F3000…i dunno if anyone here is with me on this but MCNish needs to take a LONG and a hard look at the footage of the accident because before he can claim that he isnt in the wrong on this one. he is lucky that those photographers were unhurt

  3. Fixy (@fixy) said on 12th June 2011, 14:27

    The safety car was out for well over two hours

    That shocked me! I bet the crash really destroyed everything nearby, but an F1 race lasts less than this SC period!

  4. Icthyes said on 12th June 2011, 14:35

    Looks like I missed the best bits then. In reality the Audi victory was secured for the last hour but they couldn’t afford any mistake which made it interesting. Will have to give this a proper shot next year.

    • The Sri Lankan said on 12th June 2011, 23:37

      GOTO YOUTUBE and search for channel MT89MOTORSPORTS2. you will get the highlights there

  5. Eggry (@eggry) said on 12th June 2011, 14:37

    Amazing race! R18 is definitely faster but in the race Peugeot also did very well. Only thing I’m disappointed is final wheel to wheel battle. I know it’s not LM style but…anyway good fight. Congratulations Audi! after 2 disastrous accident shining victory. I hope more tight battle between them!

  6. f1fan said on 12th June 2011, 15:11

    Turely amazing race till the last it was not clear who will be the winner

    Loved it

    one of the best races I have seen over the time

  7. Tim said on 12th June 2011, 15:33

    The McNish crash was terrifying, especially the debris flying towards spectator areas. It would have been particularly awful for McNish, with flashbacks to his F3000 crash at Donington in 1990 which killed a spectator and left him unconscious for three days.

  8. Mark Hitchcock said on 12th June 2011, 15:34

    Are there any photos of Rockenfeller’s Audi after the crash?

  9. George (@george) said on 12th June 2011, 15:41

    I cant believe no-one was hurt in the McNish accident, that was crazy. Unfortunately I was limited to radio for most of the race as my net is pants (got a few hours of espn after midnight), the commentators got into a right argument about blue flags :D, here’s some crash videos:

    McNish -
    Rocky –
    Gene defending –

  10. Kyle said on 12th June 2011, 16:29

    First time I’ve watched any of Le Mans 24 too.

    By complete chance I tuned in just as night was breaking away and Ant Davidson was all over the back of the Audi for the race lead.

    Then ended up hooked to the screen for the next five hours before I passed out from exhaustion…

    Captivating racing watching the in-car footage of those prototype cars, and oh so strange to hear the diesel engines knocking away.

    At times they looked so much faster than F1 cars do, but I suppose that is mainly due to the track characteristics, i.e. narrow with road markings everywhere to enhance the sense of speed.

    I’ll be tuning in next year for sure.

    • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 12th June 2011, 16:46

      I think that their lack of open wheels also makes them less draggy – yes, they are heavier, with less fuel and a less powerful engine, but on the long straight they are really very fast, but I do think they loose out in the breaking and tight corners.

      • codesurge (@codesurge) said on 12th June 2011, 17:10

        On the more technical side of things, it looks like the ACO’s mandated shark fins – ugly as they may be – served to keep McNish’s R18 from catching some air when the car slid sideways towards the barriers. If it’d taken off like some LMP crashes we’ve seen in the past, those photographers may not have been so lucky.

  11. Patrickl said on 12th June 2011, 16:35

    I had to follow most of the race on live timing, but even that was exciting.

    Amazing how people can survive crashes like that. I recently saw a clip of (I think a BBC documentary) about the deaths in F1 in the old days. They were remarking that the spectators were appauding when a driver managed to crawl out of a wreckage unhurt. That it was part of the contest to survive crashes.

    In that light it was weird to see them do the same thing when McNish was walking away from his wrecked car. Never realized people (still) do that.

  12. codesurge (@codesurge) said on 12th June 2011, 16:39

    Also worth mentioning is the valiant effort of Robertson Racing to reach the GTE-Am podium with their Doran-built Ford GT. As a small, independent outfit (owners-drivers are husband and wife!) without any form of factory support, it’s a remarkable achievement for them on their first outing at Le Mans.

  13. Truly a testament to the strength and depth of Audi from the top down starting with Dr. Ulrich. Astonishing result for a team that redesigned its LMP1 car…Codesurge, excellent point! As a privateer going up against factory works teams, Robertson probably pulled off one of the bigger “victories” in recent years brining that GT to the podium…well done.

  14. Trix (@) said on 12th June 2011, 16:45

    I came out from behind the lurker’s bush thanks to this year’s edition of Le Mans. Quite funny as I’m definitely an F1 girl.

    It was an amazing race with lots of coups de théâtre as we like to say over here… And I thought the Live Blog session was a delight. You could go to bed, get some rest, get up again and simply ask what had happened and get a straight answer from a fellow F1Fanatic (because the live stream/TV commentary was not going to help you get up to date easily).

    Just a shame I had to do my Good Girl duties three hours away from the final lap. Sigh…

    • S.J.M (@sjm) said on 12th June 2011, 16:55

      Well, Le Man is only on once a year and i try to make a special effort to watch it. Like yourself im more of an F1 fan (but il watch lots of different racing types casually). But Le Man is something special, the test of racing 24hrs straight is something to be admired, and this year was a 24hr sprint by Audi/Peugeot, and i think the Audi TV advert with Allan McNish says that the 1 Le Man race pretty much covers a whole F1 season in distance. Incredible, and to think the ACO actually try to slow this years cars down from last year…

  15. Malibu_GP said on 12th June 2011, 17:54

    @patrickl, thanks for that link. I try and explain to the Mrs the IMMENSE danger that was/is such a big part of GP racing. Since She is an avid enthusiast (I made her sorta…, like a Vampire does) I really wanted her to see some of the old footage that I don’t have. I also made sure to show her the two Audi shunts, and to remind ( to Her great relief ) of the safety of a modern monocoque. I would have liked to see Bordais get the win, but oh well. I bet 85% of a lap full throttle and that insanely long straight are a blast to drive!

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