After a brave challenge from Toyota wilted, Audi claimed its 11th Le Mans 24 Hours victory from 13 starts
Matt Burt
17 June 2012

Audi claimed a podium shut-out at the Le Mans 24 Hours this weekend, with the all-new diesel-hybrid R18 e-tron quattros finishing first and second in the famous endurance race.

For the second year in succession, the crew of Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoit Tréluyer finished first, amassing 378 laps after 24 gruelling hours, although the race was not without incident for the four-car Audi squad.

The Ingolstadt manufacturer went into the French event as clear favourite to score its 11th victory in 13 starts. Peugeot, which had ruined Audi's run of success by winning the 2009 race, had pulled out, and although Toyota had entered two of its new TS030 petrol-hybrid prototypes, the Japanese manufacturer was not expected to seriously challenge with its still-developing machine.

Read Vicky Parrott's Le Mans reflections

As it happened, the Toyotas showed a surprising turn of pace in both qualifying and the race. Although Audi led from the start, the two Toyotas – one driven by Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Stéphane Sarrazin and the other by Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre and Kazuki Nakajima – remained in contention during the early hours.

But the Japanese challenge was dramatically blunted when Davidson's car was hit by an errant backmarker at the flat-out Mulsanne Corner. The Toyota got airborne, before crashing heavily back onto the asphalt and slamming into the tyre barrier. The British racer broke two vertebrae in the accident and the car was destroyed.

The second Toyota remained in touch with the leading Audis until Nakajima, trying to make up ground shortly after a safety car period, struck the experimental Nissan DeltaWing. The contact pitched the crowd-pleasing DeltaWing into the wall and subsequent retirement, and forced the Toyota into the pits for time-consuming repairs.

With the Toyota team decimated, the race for victory effectively boiled down to a duel between the two hybrid Audis. It was decided in the favour of the reigning champions when Allan McNish, sharing the number two hybrid with Tom Kristensen and Dindo Capello, spun off into barriers while trying to lap a slower car in the Porsche Curves. Although he got the damaged Audi back to the pits, the incident and delay gave Fässler, Lotterer and Tréluyer the breathing space they needed to cruise home at the head of the pack.

The two hybrid cars were chased home by the more conventional diesel-powered R18 Ultra of Oliver Jarvis, Marco Bonanomi and Mike Rockenfeller. The prospect of an Audi top-four shut-out was scuppered by Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyota piloted by Nicolas Prost, Nick Heidfeld and Neel Jani, who finished a lap ahead of the second R18 Ultra of Marc Dumas, Loic Duval and Romain Dumas. 

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Comments
15

17 June 2012

To everyone involved (including the lads and lasses at Grove), quite an achievement and a motorsport milestone. And let's not forget it's not all about Audi and uber-budget works LMP1 team; the majority are privateer teams with engines from Honda and Nissan. And what a great end  to the GTE Am class, well in Corvette. Personally I was routing for the Vantage in GTE Pro but alas it was not to be...

  • If you want to know about a car, read a forum dedicated to it; that's a real 'long term test' . No manufacturer's warranty, no fleet managers servicing deals, no journalist's name to oil the wheels...

17 June 2012

Toyota seemed to forget its a 24Hr race. Blame the team management.

www.KOOOLcr.com

 

17 June 2012

Audi as predictable as the cars they sell then.

17 June 2012

When arguably the most well known race in the world is won by a diesel hybrid, what next Toyota Prius touring cars. 

17 June 2012
Citytiger wrote:

When arguably the most well known race in the world is won by a diesel hybrid, what next Toyota Prius touring cars. 

Why is that a demoralising day for motorsport?

Welcome to the 21st century, Citytiger.

18 June 2012

Citytiger wrote:

 When arguably the most well known race in the world is won by a diesel hybrid, what next Toyota Prius touring cars.  

Presumably, you've never been there to see the Audi diesels (and the Peugeot 908s from 2007 to 2011) then?  They are amazing vehicles, and every bit as advanced as an F1 car but with reliability that allows them to cover about 5400km in 24 hours.  The speed at which they can corner is incredible, and the hybrid system is effectively a 'super KERS' that is far more advanced than an F1 setup.

Audi run a diesel engine because they want to promote their TDI brand.  Peugeot did the same to promote their HDi diesel engines and because their program was marketing-driven and a diesel engine was advantageous when they started their program in 2007.  Toyota run a petrol hybrid because it suits their marketing - the Prius is, after all, the world's best-selling petrol-electric hybrid vehicle.

17 June 2012

Great race - thoroughly enjoyed what I saw of the Eurosport coverage. Incredible to see some of the Audi drivers ripping the front section of the cars off to nurse them back to the pits when they had smashes.

Have always been slightly amazed at the safety risk in this race with the different classes, with a large number of 911s acting as mobile chicanes for the top classes. 100% responsbility for the Davidson crash is with the Ferrari driver in my view - Davidson was already mostly ahead. He was walking aroung and talking before he was diagnosed with his back injury, so hopefully he has a speedy recovery.

Also fantastic to see Martin Brundle and his son do so well in their class.

And as for hybrid - etron this and that? Well can you ever make racing truly environmental? The Nissan deltawing was interesting but only a showcase, which it was agreed beforehand, was never going to be classified, even if it had made it to the finish.

Maybe next year there'll be a hydrogen powered entrant?

18 June 2012

kmurna wrote:

 Maybe next year there'll be a hydrogen powered entrant? 

Yes there will be a hydrogen-electric hybrid running from 'Garage 56' which is allocated to an experimental vehicle - which was the DeltaWing this year.

17 June 2012

Lee23404 its demoralising, because if I wanted to get excited by a diesel electric, I would take up train spotting. 

17 June 2012

Although it was a shame to see Toyota fade through a massive crash and reliability issues, they showed that petrol cars in LMP1 are not dead. Whether it had anything to do with the hybrid system or not the TS030 had the measure of the Audis at race pace, if not faster. After years of only have 2 factory teams in the class who fielded diesel cars, it needed another manufacturer to field a factory state of the art car with petrol power to show that both fuel types can still fight it out, which previous private petrol cars in the class never quite managed such as the Rebellions.

Well done to Audi as one of their car won the event for the 11th time since 2000, 9 of which through factory efforts. And Le Mans still has what it takes, while this race shows yet again that the top echelon in sportscar racing is equally as advanced as F1 cars and the pinnacle of race car design.

 

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